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Mental health and the environment: How European policies can better reflect environmental degradation’s impact on people’s mental health and well-being

Description

Mental health is an essential component of human well-being, however mental disorders such as depression and anxiety affect more than one in six EU citizens representing a significant personal and societal burden. In addition, poor mental health is estimated to cost Europe over €600 billion/year or over 4% of GDP of which a third goes to direct health care spending. It is widely documented that human mental health and well-being emerges from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological, social and lifestyle factors and environmental exposures. Following a growing body of evidence on the poor state of our environment, not least our inability to prevent runaway climate change  and nature loss, EU citizens are increasingly calling on governments to step up action.

This paper aims to respond to this need by reviewing the available scientific evidence on the correlation between the environment and people’s mental health and well-being in Europe. It looks, firstly, into environmental degradation and pollution as a threat to mental health, and secondly, into nature as an enabler of good mental health and the role of nature in the treatment of mental health conditions. Its structure logically flows from a review of the various environmental determinants of mental health towards the possible solutions and mitigating actions via nature, ecosystem services and an overall improvement of the environment. The paper also discusses how the interplay between environment and mental health is incorporated in major policy documents and suggests ways for further integration.

The paper devises a set of policy recommendations to encourage an improvement in mental and environmental health and to ensure consistent consideration of the impact of the environment on mental health and well-being in relevant EU- and Member State policies. It also devises proposal for local level actions and for addressing inequalities and environmental justice aspects.

Reference information

Source:

Filipova T., Kopsieker L., Gerritsen E., Bodin E., Brzezinski B. and Rubio-Ramirez O. (2020) “Mental health and the environment: How European policies can better reflect environmental degradation’s impact on people’s mental health and well-being”. Background paper by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)

Contributor:
Institute for European Environmental Policy & Barcelona Institute for Global Health

Published in Climate-ADAPT May 17 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT May 17 2021

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