- A number of environmental health factors can have a massive impact on our long-term health
Some environmental factors are permanent and, thus, easy to prepare for and adapt to. Others are unforeseen, and tend to cause a few more challenges when dealing with, but regardless: they both can cause physical and mental health issues, and mental and physical well-being generally accent each other, whether good or bad.
A pandemic certainly qualifies as an environmental factor, and COVID-19 was responsible for flipping the business world on its head in order to keep up with stay-at-home orders and other encouraged practices to help slow the spread. The virus itself, of course can affect health to the point of hospitalization, but with any major changes, and a constant fear of a disease, mental health issues arose in many Americans who were not actually diagnosed with the disease from a physical standpoint.
Here is a closer look out how environmental factors can affect mental and physical health.
Though it certainly had more cons than pros, national lockdowns led to lowered emission rates which gave Mother Earth a much-needed break from the constant barrage of air and water pollution caused by human beings.
This pollution can lead to physical ailments that affect respiratory systems and long-term issues if exposed regularly, but it also is a factor in things like wildfires that can cause serious physical health issues.
Speaking of wildfires, smoke exposure is also an example of an environmental health issue that affects many Americans, especially those who work in urban areas. This is a compelling reason that people should try to quit. Not only do emissions from engines create atmospheric gasses, but even having a closer proximity to cigarette smokers means a closer proximity to toxins such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and lead.
Another byproduct of pollution, low water quality can mean big problems for physical health. Many municipal health policies in America require frequent monitoring of city water supplies. In some locales within the United States, drinking tap water is not recommended, and that’s not because of the taste, it’s because of the physical harm that can be caused if consumed regularly for long periods of time.
Though not a natural part of a given environment, healthcare facilities (or a lack of) certainly affect the well-being of individuals in a given location. Access to quality healthcare is one of the many issues in the United States that is more affected by socioeconomic and racial disparities, but that also makes it an issue with a clear cut path for fixing it, and that starts with awareness.
Climate change is another environmental factor that poses health risks and should be something that the human race works together to defeat, but unfortunately that is not the case. With that, short-term effects of climate change on individuals primarily revolve around the increased frequency with which natural disasters are occurring in the world. Long-term effects are as drastic as having water levels rise to the point where entire neighborhoods could be displaced.
Combating These Issues
As shown, and mentioned in the introduction, some of these environmental factors are actually fairly easy to prepare for and deal with, but it does take a concerted effort from an entire community. Whether that community be your family, your work colleagues, or everyone who lives where you live, changes start with awareness and information.
A healthier environment means healthier people (and other organisms) that reside within that environment, and when physical health is optimized, mental health is often much easier to maintain, and vice versa. Stay active, but stay aware of the issues that affect your community. Protect yourself against these environmental shortcomings, and encourage those around you to do the same.