Sea swimming and snorkeling in tropical coastal blue spaces and mental well-being: Findings from Indonesian island communities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Carya Maharja*, Radisti A. Praptiwi, Bethany R. Roberts, Karyn Morrissey, Mathew P. White, Nuzulia M. Sari, Fauzan Cholifatullah, Jito Sugardjito, Lora E. Fleming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has considerable mental health impacts. Immersive nature-based interventions, such as swimming or snorkeling, may help mitigate the global mental health crisis caused by the pandemic. To investigate this, we collected cross-sectional data from residents of coastal villages (n = 308) in Kepulauan Selayar, Indonesia. Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used with mental well-being as the outcome variable, operationalized as the Mental Component Summary (MCS) scores from the SF-12 (12-item Short Form Health Survey). After adjusting for covariates, the activity of sea swimming or snorkeling was found to be significantly associated with better mental well-being (η2 = 0.036; p < 0.01). Predictive margins analysis revealed that those who engaged in sea swimming or snorkeling for one to three days a week gained a 2.7 increase in their MCS scores, compared to those who did not. A non-linear dose-response relationship was detected: for those swimming or snorkeling more than three days per week, there was only an increase of 1.7 MCS score compared to the 0-day. Overall this study contributes to the expanding of evidence base, showing that interactions with blue spaces can be beneficial for mental health, especially in a potentially stressful time such as the current pandemic. Management implications: The positive association between the activity of swimming or snorkeling in open seas and the mental well-being of rural coastal communities in Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic indicates that access to coastal blue spaces is important in a time of uncertainties and high stress. Ensuring that local communities have continuous access to these spaces is the key challenge for all relevant stakeholders, particularly in light of the growing privatization of the local coastal environment for the sake of tourism. However, considering the importance that these blue spaces hold for the mental well-being of local communities, intensive dialogue amongst these stakeholders must be pursued to ensure that the development of the area does not jeopardize the collective well-being of the people already living there.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100584
JournalJournal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Blue space
  • COVID-19
  • Indonesia
  • Mental health
  • Well-being
  • Wild swimming


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