Ambitious environmental protection benefits health and well-being

people in a green space in the cityClick to enlarge
Healthy environment, healthy lives – green spaces are important for health and well-being.
Source: vm / E+ / GettyImages

Air pollution, noise, climate change, chemicals – Environmental problems are a burden on human health. An intact environment can have a positive influence on health and well-being. Urban green spaces are a good example. A recent report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) describes successes for environment and health as well as challenges that face Europe today.

The EEA report “Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe” describes how important the state of the environment in Europe is for human health and well-being. The report stresses that the COVID 19 pandemic has provided a clear example of the complex links between the environment, health and societal systems.

The report contains information and data on health burden due to exposure to air pollution, noise, climate change, contaminated water, chemicals, indoor air and electromagnetic fields. It also discusses the impact of simultaneous exposure to multiple stressors. The report also shows the influence of demographic development in Europe, unhealthy behaviours and socio-economic factors. Concrete case studies from practice are frequently included in the EEA report - including UBA projects on environmental justice, i.e. the relationship between the environment, health and the social situation.

The positive impact of a healthy environment on people's physical and mental health and well-being is a key factor in public health. The EEA report shows this in the importance of green and blue spaces in urban areas: urban natural spaces provide space for movement, relaxation and interactions with other people. They cool districts in summer heat, reduce the risk of flooding in heavy rainfall, reduce noise pollution and promote urban biodiversity.

Despite many successes, there is still much to be done to protect the environment and health in Europe. The report underlines the importance of integrating environment and health concerns into all policy areas in order to reduce the environment-related pressures and risks to health.

The report points out that the EU Commission's European Green Deal sets important political goals for a sustainable and cross-cutting strategy to protect the environment and health. An ambitious implementation of this strategy in the EU Member States is of great importance for environmental protection and human health.