The Canal & River Trust are setting out how former industrial waterways can improve the wellbeing of millions of people. Their canals and rivers run through some of the most heavily populated communities in England and Wales, providing accessible green and blue space where it’s needed most.
With ever increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and debilitating conditions including rising levels of stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions in the UK, the Canal & River Trust believe waterways and free-to-use towpaths are uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to improving the wellbeing of the nation.
New independent research published today shows that simply spending time by the waterways can make you happier and improve your life satisfaction, with an equivalent estimated social wellbeing value of £3.8bn per year.
Many of the waterways that the Canal & River Trust care for run through some of the country’s most deprived and multi-cultural urban communities, where their potential impact is greatest. People living in the least prosperous areas are twice as likely to be physically inactive than those living in more prosperous areas.
A report that the Canal & River Trust commissioned, ‘Assessing the wellbeing impacts of waterways usage in England and Wales’, written by social impact consultancy group Simetrica, reveals:
• Any visit to a waterway is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and visiting regularly is associated with even higher levels of life satisfaction.
• The associated benefits of visiting a canal or river increase with the length of visit, with research showing higher levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety for longer trips.
Their research also reveals that three quarters of towpath users say they visit to ‘get away from it all and clear my head’, and because they are ‘great places to relax and de-stress’. However, of the eight million people living within a kilometre of a waterway, currently just three in ten ever visit.
This gives the Canal & River Trust vast potential to make a meaningful impact on millions of lives.