Biodiversity and Human Health
There is a general consensus in the natural health industry that biodiversity and being in contact with nature is of great benefit to human health. Naturopaths and their patients can incorporate biodiversity into their lives to reap the therapeutic benefits that species diversity and interaction with nature can provide.
Interaction with natural environments can have a positive impact on psychological, emotional and spiritual healing. Studies are constantly supporting our need to spend time in natural spaces in order to support out physical and mental stability, reduce stress levels and recover from illness quickly (2). One study has found that a wider biodiversity can cause greater human happiness and a feeling of wellness (3). It makes sense! How often do you walk through a park and just feel better, you can breathe deeply and think clearly…
By creating a relationship between ourselves and the natural environment, we are also more likely to participate in outdoor activities that can further benefit our health. There have been links between outdoor exercise and reduced confusion and anger, increased energy levels and a general feeling of wellness (4). It might be worth skipping that gym workout for a lovely stroll in the local park…
By contrast, it is human alteration of the natural environment that is causing negative and unfavourable health effects. There is a responsibility to inform our patients and the wider community about these issues in order to reduce species loss and promote conservation.
In a very short time frame, human consumption and industrialisation has changed the world’s ecosystems and habitats in a drastic way. This disruption of earth’s natural rhythms is thought to be causing a release of toxins and increasing the breeding grounds of disease (5). Our natural systems provide us with basic human necessities like nutrition, clean water, protection, and medicine so it is vital that we protect and work toward a more balanced and less damaging solution. Furthermore, the development of civilisation – like living in built up cities – is having a detrimental effect on our health. There have been links between city living and increased anxiety and adverse social and personal consequences (4), with some studies suggesting it can cause the loss of connection to your community, exhaustion and loss of vitality (6).
For your own health, and the health of our planet, respecting and understanding how essential nature and biodiversity is to us is the first step towards preventing further loss of biodiversity. As part of your treatment plan, we regularly suggest some more time outdoors in the sun and fresh air, and the studies are providing evidence that this can only be of great benefit to your mental and physical wellbeing. The natural health industry is in the unique position of being able to present our patients with the therapeutic benefits of nature.
Take some time this weekend to find and enjoy a local park, go for a walk away from the hustle and bustle of our modern world and connect to the natural environment.
- Arvidson, K 2016, ‘Biodiversity, Nature and Human Health’, Natural Medicine Journal, vol. 8, no. 10, n.p.
- Clark, NE, Lovell, R, Wheeler, BW, Higgins, SL, Depledge, MH & Norris K, 2014, ‘Biodiversity, cultural pathways, and human health: a framework’ Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 198-204.
- Adjei, OW & Agyei, FK 2014, ‘Biodiversity, environmental health and human well-being: analysis of linkages and pathways’, Environment, Development and Sustainability, vol. 17, no. 5, pp. 1085-1102.
- Custance, P, Highley, M & Wilcox, D 2011, ‘Developing a novel health and well-being service: the value of utilising the restorative benefits of nature in the UK’, Journal of Marketing Management, vol. 37, no. 3/4, pp. 386-400.
- Wolfe, ND, Eitel, MN, Gockowski, J et al. 2000, ‘Deforestation, hunting and the ecology of microbial emergence’, Global Change & Human Health, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 10-25.
Stilgoe, JR 2001, ‘Gone barefoot lately?’, American Journal of Preventative Medicine, vol. 20, pp. 243-244.