Skip to content


Investigating the potential of open water swimming for improving public mental health – a participatory research study

Dr Fiona Duncan is a Research Associate at Newcastle University. Her research interests focus on how delivering services and interventions in community spaces can be used as a way of promoting good mental health and preventing mental illness in the whole community.  She is currently running a study exploring the role of open water swimming in improving public mental health.


Open water swimming in the sea, rivers or lakes in the UK has greatly risen in popularity over the last few years and research has consistently reported a wide range of mental health and wellbeing benefits from taking part.  An ever-increasing number of open water swimming groups have been established which offer their members social activities, mental health education and therapy courses as well as swimming activities.  Therefore, open water swimming could be a valuable community mental health asset or resource.


However, research regarding who may benefit the most, how they may benefit and how open water swimming can be best implemented is still in its early stages. At this stage research on open water swimming could go in several different directions. Therefore, it is vitally important that we obtain the views of people who actually take part in open water swimming when setting a future research agenda to ensure that it is relevant and useful. Consequently, this study will take a participatory research approach to explore 1) the role of open water swimming in improving mental health and wellbeing 2) what future research on open water swimming and mental health would participants consider to be most relevant and useful 3) social prescribers’ views of open water swimming as a mental health intervention.


Anyone (over 18 years of age) who has recently participated in open water swimming (swimming in the sea, lakes, rivers and lochs) is eligible to take part in this study.

The researchers are especially interested in talking to people who are living with severe mental illness, organisers of open water swimming groups or clubs, and people who are working in a social prescribing role (whether you have ever prescribed open water swimming or not).


Participants will be able to choose whether they participate over Zoom or whether they would prefer the researcher to meet them in-person at a location of their choosing.


Closing date to apply: 24th July 2024

How to Apply

Please email Dr Fiona Duncan at if you are interested in taking part.

Expenses and Involvement

Participants will be able to claim an involvement payment for this opportunity in the form of a £25 voucher of their choice.