Environmental and biodiversity predictors of health outcomes

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Suzanne Mavoa

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There is substantial evidence that environments with more greenspaces and higher levels of vegetation benefit human health via higher levels of physical activity and improved mental health. Researchers are expanding this knowledge base by investigating different health outcomes and other elements of healthy ecosystems (e.g., water, biodiversity). This paper will present findings from several epidemiological studies assessing relationships between natural environments and multiple health outcomes. All studies used secondary data that had information on participant residential addresses, sociodemographics (e.g., age, sex, income) and health outcomes. Geospatial measures of the natural environment (e.g., greenness, tree canopy, water, species richness) were calculated around addresses. Health outcomes included: wellbeing, mental health, food allergy, cardiometabolic (cholesterol, blood pressure, arterial structure/function, BMI), vitamin D, sleep, pregnancy/birth outcomes, and physical activity. Linear/logistic regression models were fitted to assess the relationship between the exposures and outcomes. Preliminary results suggest consistent beneficial relationships between greenness and health across a range of outcomes (e.g., wellbeing, mental health, physical activity). Yet in some cases, greener areas were negatively associated with health (e.g., food allergy). The links between biodiversity (species richness) and water and health were less clear, which may be due to limitations with exposure data and measurement. Healthy ecosystems are key determinants of human health. However, these relationships are not always in the expected direction. Therefore, we need to better understand the importance of, and interaction between, different natural environment predictors across a range of health outcomes to be able to maximize both ecosystem and human health

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Conference Presentation

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