Health and the environment closely connected

A compilation of research evidence on how human health can be positively and negatively influenced by the environment has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

AIHW spokesperson Mark Cooper-Stanbury said the report synthesises research findings on 15 selected environmental factors that we know can influence people’s health’.

The 15 environmental factors assessed were temperature, walkability, extreme weather events, ultraviolet radiation, indoor and outdoor air quality, water fluoridation, transport, food and water safety, green space, vector populations, environmental noise, housing condition, and overcrowding and hazards in/around the home. The report summarises many studies across the 15 environmental factors.

Health and the environment: a compilation of evidence shows that the effects of the environment on humans can be either physical (such as respiratory problems due to air pollution) or mental (such as poor mental health during drought conditions).

The effects can also be direct, such as injury or death, or indirect, such as when environmental factors influence lifestyle or behavioural choices.

‘For example, it has been found that people living in walkable neighbourhoods are more likely to be physically active, and less likely to be obese, than those who live in less pedestrian-friendly areas,’ Mr Cooper-Stanbury said.

‘On the other hand, an example of a more direct consequence can be seen in the 815 deaths caused by bushfires in Australia between 1851 and 2010.’

The report also suggests that there is more to learn about the relationship between health and the environment.

While new evidence is constantly emerging, the lack of data at a local level means that many environmental factors have not yet been fully evaluated.


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