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Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe


Nature provides the basis for the good health and well-being of the European population. Clean air, water and food are essential for sustaining life; natural environments provide space for recreation, relaxation and social interaction; and raw materials feed into our production systems to provide the comforts of contemporary life.

At the same time, environmental pollution is unavoidable. We are exposed to pollution in our homes, in our workplaces, in the outdoor environment and when we eat, play, sleep, drive, walk, swim or run. In 2012, 13 % of all deaths in the EU were attributable to the environment. These deaths are preventable and can be significantly reduced through efforts to improve environmental quality. 

The COVID-19 pandemic provides a stark example of the inextricable links between human health and ecosystem health. This novel disease is thought to have emerged in bat populations and subsequently jumped species to infect humans in a seafood and animal market. The emergence of such zoonotic pathogens is linked to environmental degradation and human interactions with animals in the food system. Other factors, such as exposure to air pollution and social status, seem to affect transmission and mortality rates in ways that are not yet fully understood.

Climate change contributes to the burden of disease and premature deaths in Europe. Direct health effects include death, injury and the increased risk of food- and water-borne disease, resulting from extreme temperatures, floods and forest fires. Indirect impacts result from changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases and allergens, reductions in agricultural productivity and contaminated water sources.

Reference information

European Environment Agency
European Environment Agency

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jan 12 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Sep 10 2022

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