Good for the sole: Fishing found to greatly benefit men's mental health

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger spoke to the men who can vouch for the mental health benefits of fishing, as found in a new study

Sitting on the banks of a river of lake, waiting for the fish to bite, is an age-old pastime.

Now, its emerged that even if an angler doesn’t catch anything, they do come away with better mental health. 

A study by three British universities has found male anglers are more likely to avoid anxiety and depression.

Psychologists who spoke to over 1700 men about their hobbies found that men who fished regularly were 17% less likely to experience depression and anxiety - and the more they fished, the greater the impact.

The research was carried out by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, Ulster University, and Queen’s University, Belfast.

"I wouldn't change that connection with other fishermen for the world," said Russell Hogg

Its findings have come as no surprise to those who fish regularly. 

Russell Hogg, who works at Oakwood Angling in Hertfordshire, has felt its benefits for decades. 

He told ITV News: "Being in the great outdoors is good for the soul."

"You are not designed to be locked up in cooped-up spaces, you are designed to be an animal of the world.

"You feel calm and at one with nature. It’s not just about the fishing, it’s about conservation too. It’s very satisfying.

The study found that men who fished regularly were 17% less likely to experience depression and anxiety. Credit: ITV News

"Your mind completely blanks because all you’re worried about is what you’re fishing and what your target is."

The link between fishing and better mental health has been established so firmly, angling is now being offered nationally by the NHS.

After a number of successful pilot projects, GP’s can now refer patients in need to local community organisations which offer support along with basic equipment.

But it’s not just men who benefit. Julia Ryan, who only took up the hobby three years ago, now volunteers in Essex for Cast A Thought, a charity that helps women and youngsters too.

She has seen dramatic changes in the mental health of many of those she has introduced to the riverbank.

“You can really relax, lose yourself in the fishing, but you can also be as social as you want and chat to people," Julia said.

"Fishing really lends itself to having those conversations that you might not have face to face.

"For family members to say I’ve got my son back, he’s like his old self, he’s laughing and joking like he used to… that’s just brilliant!"

Alongside the patience and focus that angling helps develop, when the fish do bite, there can also be a real sense of achievement.

But even when they don’t, the benefits of watching the world - and sometimes the fish - go by are now better recognised than ever. 

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