The theme of the 2015 Mental Health Week is Act Belong Commit: Being active, having a sense of belonging and purpose in life all contribute to happiness and good mental health.

The theme of Act Belong Commit is also reflected in Recreational Fishing. Fishing involves being active and surrounded by the natural environment. Most people fish with others, whether it be friends or family in nature giving not only a social, but an environmental sense of belonging.

Once most people start fishing, they commit for life having changing social, mental, emotional and environmental values that glue them to this hobby, sport and lifestyle for life.

jimmy dhuie

A recent Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund project, funded by recreational fishers, investigated the health and well-being benefits of recreational fishing in Western Australia and found some surprising results.

The study by researchers at Curtin University, surveyed 604 Western Australians and it revealed clear evidence of benefits to health and well-being derived from recreational fishing. It found WA has a population of fishers that have lower levels of obesity than the general population and have active lifestyles, they also have a good quality of life and are satisfied with their health, possessing a sense of self-worth and satisfaction with their lives.

The project also found that it was clear that fishing provides significant benefits to the health and well-being, particularly in the area of mental health and stress/anxiety reduction.

Individuals or groups can recreationally fish providing solitude or socialisation respectively. Some hyperactive children are noted to sit calmly by the water for extended periods of time; uncommunicative children verbally express the desire to fish and some say recreational fishing is one of the few pursuits that appears to calm schizophrenic individuals.

It has long been known that the main reason people go fishing is to relax and unwind. Reducing stress and anxiety impacts positively on many other chronic conditions and improves overall quality of life.

An American study (Mowatt and Bennett, 2011) found that fishing also benefits Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferers. The study conducted a fly fishing camp with 67 post-deployment veterans diagnosed with PTSD diagnosed before and after the camp.

The study found statistically significant reductions in perceived stress, sleep issues, anxiety, depression, somatic stress symptoms, negative mood states and PTSD Symptoms (19% reduction in PTSD symptoms with some no longer meeting a PTSD diagnosis).

Outdoor activities such as recreational fishing provide a sense of connection with nature, people, family and friends or community as well as reduce stress and generate a sense of well-being by taking place in a ‘ green space’ (in the natural environment).


Some studies have found that this contact with nature and people provide benefits in self-esteem and mood with one of the greatest improvements measured in the mentally ill (Barton and Pretty, 2010). Other research theorised that the relationship between nature and human well-ness provides a medium for restoration, an opportunity for emotional care, a mirror for in-depth reflection and an opportunity to rekindle an innate union (Brymer, Cuddihy and Sharma-Brymer, 2010), also likely to positively affect people suffering from mental illness.

This week (2-10 October) is mental health week. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44 which equates to 7 suicides per day, with 30 attempts for each suicide (Lifeline). The effects of mental health on sufferers and family, friends and society is tragic and the symptoms for mental illnesses can sometimes be hidden.

Next time you go fishing with family or friends, make sure they are ok, and just as importantly make sure you are ok yourself.

Studies have found that there are both strong motivations and benefits to the health and well-being derived from recreational fishing in terms of stress reduction, positive mood, relaxation and mental health. The RFIF health and wellbeing survey reflected these benefits and reflected in the sample population of recreational fishers. It may just be that the true value of recreational fishing is higher than the thrill of the catch.

This article was partly written from information in Curtin universities RFIF project. For the full RFIF project on Investigating the Health and Well-Being Benefits of Recreational Fishing in Western Australia please see  Recfish Report Final September 2014.

If you have suffer from mental illness or know someone who does, information is available from the following links:

Lifeline:  Ph: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue:  Ph: 1300 22 4636



Barton, J. & Pretty, J. 2010. What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science and Technology. 44(10): 3947-3955.

Brymer, E., Cuddihy, T.T., & Sharma-Brymer, V. 2010 The Role of Nature-Based Experiences in the Development and Maintenance of Wellness. Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education. 1(2): 21-27. DOI: 10.1080/18377122.2010.9730328.

Mowatt, R. A., & Bennett, J. (2011). War narratives: veteran stories, PTSD effects, and therapeutic fly-fishing. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 45(4).