Intended for healthcare professionals


Improving health in coastal communities

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 17 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2214


The health of coastal communities: a national problem

  1. William Bird, honorary professor
  1. European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter, UK
  1. william.bird{at}

Listening to communities’ needs and wants is key

Seaside towns used to be desirable and thriving health spas, with a relatively strong economy: much favoured holiday destinations. But after decades of decline, these towns are home to the most deprived communities in England. The recent report Health in Coastal Communities by England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, quantifies the poor mental and physical health, heavy smoking, and drug and alcohol misuse that have become embedded in these communities.1 On further analysis there seems to be a “coastal excess” of many long term conditions compared with inland towns with similar demographics and deprivation. This important report identifies the unique factors that contribute to the coastal effect and calls for urgent action to improve the health of the 6.7 million people living in coastal communities, which have more similarities with each other than with similar deprived towns just a few miles inland. The director of public health in north east Lincolnshire, Stephen Pintus, described some populations in coastal communities as “old before their time,” with an 18 year shorter life expectancy …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription