Hobbies enrich our lives, provide stress relief, and give us an outlet for our creativity. For many, those hobbies are health-focused: running, cycling, bird watching, meditation, or yoga. And now, one hobby that men love but hasn’t typically been associated with fitness is getting a total rebrand. That is, according to new research, fishing might provide more than just a respite from the daily grind. It might do scores for our mental health.
Researchers based in the UK examined survey data collected from 1,752 men regarding physical activity, mental health, hobbies, psychiatric diagnoses, and recreational fishing. Participants were also asked questions about screen time and sedentary behavior.
In the new study, the team found that men who reported more frequent time spent fishing had fewer mental health concerns, fewer psych diagnoses, and fewer suicide and self-harm attempts than those who spent less time fishing or did not engage in fishing at all.
But keep it short, apparently. Despite findings that fishing overall boosts mental health, the researchers found that those who fished for longer periods of time per session had higher incidences of suicidal ideation or depressive episodes.
“In general, the findings suggest that encouraging frequent participation in recreational angling could be a dual-method strategy for promoting relaxation and positive mental health, as well as encouraging increased levels of physical activity in those with mental health issues,” the study authors wrote.
That fishing might be good for your mental health isn’t exactly shocking. Previous research has determined the positive impact of so-called blue spaces or bodies of water on mental health. Studies have found that time spent near oceans, lakes, or rivers improves mood and reduces stress to an even greater degree than exposure to green spaces.
The UK study, though promising, has limitations. It leaned heavily on middle-class white men over the age of 45 who were either married or lived with a partner, so additional research is needed to determine if these findings are repeatable across demographics. Participants in this study also had a higher prevalence of anxiety or depression diagnoses than the general public, which might indicate that people who live with these conditions already recognize fishing as a boon to their mental health, or that this particular demographic is more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression than the general population of the UK.
“However, these comparisons are important because it demonstrates that despite relatively high numbers of individuals reporting diagnosed mental health, they have still chosen to participate in angling as their hobby,” wrote the authors. “Indeed, some individuals may be using angling as a form of ‘self-therapy,’ given the links between increased time spent in nature and psychological benefits.”
In any case? Being “gone fishing” may be good for you in more ways than one.