Nature for health and equity
Europeans face health and social challenges that merit urgent attention – obesity, mental health problems, social exclusion, air and noise pollution, and heat stress in cities.
These issues particularly affect socio-economically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and put pressure on already stretched health budgets.
Lack of access to nature and natural areas contributes to health inequality, and improving it is key to tackling these challenges.
Wealth often determines access to nature in cities (Lee & Maheswaran, 2011), and these areas are under pressures of urbanisation and development. According to a growing body of evidence, health inequalities are linked to access to nature. Health inequality affects all stages of life: pre-birth, childhood, adult life and old age. A number of studies show access to nature is vital for good mental and physical health at all ages.
Living in areas with green spaces significantly reduces income-related health inequalities, counteracting the effect of deprivation (Mitchell and Popham, 2008).