The Environment Agency has published a report on the ‘State of the Environment‘ which focuses on the relationship between human health and people’s access to and connection with a clean, high quality natural environment.
The report highlights the inequality of access to nature in our society, finding that people living in deprived areas are not only more likely to have poorer health outcomes, but also have poorer quality environments and access to less green space.
Air pollution was found to be the single greatest environmental threat to health in the UK, followed by noise pollution. However, the report does highlight the benefits of spending time in nature for human health, for example, “people with good access to the natural environment are estimated to be 22% more likely to be physically active”.
In a speech to launch the report, Chair of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan said:
Investing in a healthy environment is about the smartest thing we can do. It makes medical sense, because it will mean better health for all and less strain on the NHS. It makes economic sense, because it will save the NHS billions of pounds: the NHS could save an estimated £2.1 billion every year in treatment costs if everyone in England had access to good quality green space.
And it makes socio-political sense, because those who live in poor environments are also those who have the worst health and the lowest incomes: levelling up the environment will also help level up everything else.