Planetary Health:

“The health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.”

Modern society is full of positive developments. Technology keeps us more connected than ever, drug developments can treat or even cure numerous diseases, we can travel the world, and food choices are seemingly unlimited.

However, many changes are starting to present challenges. Research has shown that our ‘always on’ culture is effecting stress levels, resilience and wellbeing, while social media usage has been linked to mental health issues in young people. And although innovation can be exciting, it can also be disorienting and unnerving for some.

Poor mental health is estimated to carry an economic and social cost of £105 billion a year in England and most of these problems start early in life. Half of all mental health problems have been established by the age of 14, rising to 75% by age 24.

At the same time, some developments are putting the health of our planet at risk. Atmospheric CO2 levels are rising at a record rate, biodiversity is disappearing, more than 18 million acres of forest cut is down every year, and more than half the planet’s liveable surface is used for producing food.

This is starting to affect human health. Through extreme weather conditions, air quality, access to clean water and food production, natural life support systems are being changed.

Globally, 11 million deaths annually are attributable to poor diet, making it the leading risk factor for death across the world. 3.61 million people are dying each year due to outdoor pollution caused by fossil fuels, and in 2018 alone more than 5,000 people died and 28.9 million have needed emergency assistance or humanitarian aid because of extreme weather.

Researchers in Exeter focus efforts on these global challenges, seeking ways to protect the environment while supporting economic growth, and understanding how we can improve people’s mental as well as physical health in an ever-changing world.

The next few pages share just some of the work taking place to help the inter-connected health of both humans and the Earth.