EEA report on how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe

16 September 2020

Article: 54/3707

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published a report which finds that a significant proportion of the burden of disease in Europe continues to be attributed to environmental pollution resulting from human activity. The report, which draws extensively on World Health Organization (WHO) data on the causes of death and disease, highlights how the quality of Europe’s environment plays a key role in determining health and well-being outcomes. It shows how social deprivation, unhealthy behaviours and shifting demographics in Europe influence environmental health, with the most vulnerable hardest hit.

In key findings from the report: 

  • Air pollution remains Europe’s top environmental threat to health, with more than 400,000 premature deaths driven by air pollution every year in the EU. Noise pollution comes second, contributing to 12,000 premature deaths, followed by the impacts of climate change, notably heatwaves. 
  • The burden of pollution and climate change varies across Europe, with clear differences between countries in the east and west of Europe. The highest fraction of national deaths, at 27%, is attributable to the environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the lowest, at 9%, in Iceland and Norway. 
  • Socially deprived communities typically struggle under a triple burden of poverty, poor quality environment and ill health. Poorer communities are often exposed to higher levels of pollution and noise and to high temperatures, while pre-existing health conditions increase vulnerability to environmental health hazards. Targeted measures are needed to improve environmental conditions for the most vulnerable in Europe. 
  • People are exposed to multiple risks at any time, including air, water and noise pollution, and chemicals, which combine and in some cases act in unison, to impact on health. European cities are particularly vulnerable to these multiple threats, while also having less access to green and blue spaces. 
  • Ongoing research is investigating the links between the current COVID-19 pandemic and environmental dimensions.

Source: EEA, 8 September 2020