Does recreational fishing have health and wellbeing benefits?

finding
evidence-based
answers

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In recent years, the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time outdoors, particularly in nature areas, have been increasingly recognised. Spending time in natural areas in general has been found to have a wide range of benefits. Some examples include:

  • People who exercise outdoors experience greater mental health benefits compared to those who exercise indoors
  • Hospital patients who have a view to a nature area recover faster for surgical procedures compared to those with no nature view
  • Spending time in natural outdoor environments has been shown to help restore attention after a period of work, faster than typically occurs in an indoor environment
  • People recovering from surgery, trauma, and mental illness have been found to benefit from well-designed outdoor engagement programs, including many focused on recreational fishing

The findings of the many studies examining the benefits of spending time outdoors suggest that recreational fishing, like many other outdoor activities, is likely to have benefits for the health and wellbeing of many (if not all) of those who participate in it. For most people who fish, this can seem like an obvious statement: it is common for fishers to say that fishing makes them feel good and is important for their wellbeing.

However, despite this anecdotal evidence, when we reviewed the available evidence, we found that surprisingly few studies have actually examined whether, when and how recreational fishing might be beneficial for the health and wellbeing of those who do it.

It’s important to develop a better understanding of how and when recreational fishing can benefit health and wellbeing – and when it doesn’t. This can help us identify how best to manage recreational fisheries to ensure benefits for health and wellbeing, something about which little is currently known. To do this, we need a better understanding of:

  • What are the potential health and wellbeing benefits of recreational fishing?
  • Does the evidence stack up for all benefits, or are some benefits stronger than others?
  • Which types of recreational fishing have which effects on health and wellbeing? There are hundreds (if not thousands) of types of fishing – and different types of fishing may have differing effects on health and wellbeing.
  • What barriers can prevent or reduce a person experiencing health and wellbeing benefits from fishing – and what can be done to address these barriers?
  • How does recreational fishing compare to other outdoor activities?

Answering these questions is complicated, because many things are typically affecting any person’s health and wellbeing at any given point in time – and recreational fishing will be just one of these things. We need to use robust methods to identify linkages between recreational fishing and health and wellbeing. Find out more about the specific research methods being used, and the challenges of establishing a robust evidence base.

The study is funded by the Australian government and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.