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 suggest 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 EUand Member State policies. It also devises proposal for local level actions and for addressing inequalities and environmental justice aspects. Policy recommendations include:
The EU is to develop a dedicated EU mental health and well-being strategy, with a strong focus on environmental determinants and prevention, as well as earmark investments for such measures within the EU4Health programme.
Integrate resilience indicators, which consider interlinkages between mental health and the environment, into the European Semester, the forthcoming 8th Environmental Action Programme, and the future communication on the “economy of well-being”.
As part of Europe’s forthcoming zero-pollution action plan, ensure that those furthest behind benefit the most, by prioritising investments which increase access to nature and reduce exposure to pollution in low-income and marginalised communities throughout Europe.
Public policy research to compile substantive evidence that quantifies the economic benefits of the environment on mental health (e.g., relative cost/efficiency of environmental factors in preventing harms and helping cures).