Research and teaching in environmental health have centered on the hazardous effects of various environmental exposures, such as toxic chemicals, radiation, and biological and physical agents. However, some kinds of environmental exposures may have positive health effects. According to E.O. Wilson's "biophilia" hypothesis, humans are innately attracted to other living organisms. Later authors have expanded this concept to suggest that humans have an innate bond with nature more generally. This implies that certain kinds of contact with the natural world may benefit health. Evidence supporting this hypothesis is presented from four aspects of the natural world: animals, plants, landscapes, and wilderness. Finally, the implications of this hypothesis for a broader agenda for environmental health, encompassing not only toxic outcomes but also salutary ones, are discussed. This agenda implies research on a range of potentially healthful environmental exposures, collaboration among professionals in a range of disciplines from public health to landscape architecture to city planning, and interventions based on research outcomes.
Australia is currently experiencing a process of escalating ecosystem degradation. This landscape degradation is associated with many outcomes that may directly or indirectly impact on human health. This study used a Bayesian spatial method to examine the effects of environmental degradation (measured as dryland salinity) on the mental health of the resident rural population. An association was detected between dryland salinity and depression, indicating that environmental processes may be driving the degree of psychological ill-health in these populations. (C) 2009 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Prof. Michael DePledge is Chair of the Advisory Board of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health and Professor of Environment and Human Health at the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry in Plymouth. A former member of the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor’s Committee, Michael is also Chairman of the Science Advisory Committee on the Environment and Climate Change, of the European Commission in Brussels. He also served as the Chief Scientific Advisor of the UK Government’s Environment Agency from 2002 to 2006. Professor Bob Stone holds a Chair in Interactive Multimedia Systems at the University of Birmingham (UK). He is Research Director of the UK Human Factors Integration Defense Technology Centre and an Academician of the Russian International Higher Education Academy of Sciences. A multiple award-winning Chartered Psychologist, Bob is involved in numerous international projects specializing in the application of human factors knowledge to the design and evaluation of virtual defense, healthcare and heritage technologies, simulation and advanced robotics. Dr William Bird is the strategic health advisor for Natural England, leading the health program to develop the natural environment as a major health resource. He chairs the Outdoor Health Forum that unites all major UK environment organizations to influence health professionals to use the natural environment for prevention and treatment. William has recently become the Clinical Director of the Environment and Human Health Unit at the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry.