Valuing the health benefits of physical activities in the marine environment and their importance for marine spatial planning
The marine environment provides a number of services which contribute to human well-being including the provision of food, regulation of climate and the provision of settings for cultural gains. To ensure these services continue to be provided, effective management is required and is being strategically implemented through the development of marine spatial plans. These plans require an understanding of the costs and benefits associated with alternative marine uses and how they contribute to human well-being. One benefit which is often difficult to quantify is the health benefit of engaging with the marine environment. To address this, the research develops an approach which can estimate the contribution aquatic physical activities makes to quality adjusted life years (QALYs) in monetary and non-monetary terms. Using data from the Health Survey for England, the research estimates that physical activities undertaken in aquatic environments at a national level provides a total gain of 24,853 QALYs. A conservative estimate of the monetary value of a QALY gain of this magnitude is £176 million. This approach provides estimates of health benefits which can be used in more comprehensive impact assessments, such as cost-benefit analysis, to compare alternative marine spatial plans. The paper concludes by discussing future steps.