What is meant by ‘wellbeing’
Wellbeing isn’t just the absence of illness. It refers to a person’s physical and mental health, general sense of security, happiness and freedom from undue emotional or social stress. It might be described as a good feeling about yourself and your life.
The environment in which we live can infl uence our health and wellbeing, both positively and negatively. In Ireland we are fortunate to live in an environment that is generally very good. This is brought home to us forcefully when we see on our TVs the conditions in which many people in some parts of the world are struggling just to survive.
Although the environmental issues that we need to address are often local, there are also national and global issues that have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing. (See http://www.healthyireland.ie/
The following are considered to be core environmental needs for health and wellbeing:
• clean air (free of smoke, bad odours etc.)
• clean water
• safe food
• safe shelter
• stable environment
• access to clean and protected amenity.
Wellbeing has always ultimately depended on a healthy environment. In the face of finite resources and a growing population, maintaining and achieving wellbeing for all remains a challenge.
Environmental hazards – biological, chemical and radiological – can affect health directly through the contamination of water, air, soil and food. Some of these hazards are associated with how we live and the choices we make. Our consumption patterns should promote sustainable living for ourselves and our communities and avoid stress to the environment.
In Ireland we are fortunate to have better air quality than most countries in Europe, but some key challenges remain. The EPA’s latest report on air quality shows that burning of solid fuel is the biggest threat to good air quality in Ireland, followed by emissions from vehicle exhausts. Despite monitored air quality being within EU limit values we face challenges in maintaining this position. And, at a number of locations, air quality failed to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline values for a range of pollutants including fine particulate matter, which poses risks to people’s health. The levels of particulate matter in our air is of growing concern, especially during the winter months when people’s fuel choices can directly impact on our air quality and on our health, particularly in small towns and villages. The predominant source of fine particulate matter is from the burning of solid fuel. Also, in urban areas, we face potential exceedances of nitrogen dioxide limit values unless we reduce our dependence on the private motor car. (http://epa.ie/newsandevents/news/pressreleases2017/name,63174,en.html
) Air pollution has a significant effect on mortality rates.