Health and Social Benefits of Nature and Biodiversity

CEP were part of a team led by Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) with Milieu, WWF Germany and Rudolf de Groot fromESP (Ecosystems Services Partnership) who carried out a project for DG Env on “The health and social benefits of nature and biodiversity”.

While many of the existing studies on protected areas and green infrastructure make reference to health benefits and social benefits, none offer a comprehensive assessment of public health benefits from improved air quality, climate, exercise and healthier lifestyles and/or of social benefits from access to nature and working with nature.  This study aimed at filling this gap and had four research questions:


Q1 : What is the evidence on the links between Natura 2000 sites and green infrastructure, public health and social cohesion?

Q2 : Which stakeholders are most concerned with (and engaged with) the biodiversity/health/social benefits nexus? Who is leading collaborations, facilitating change and offering examples of interesting practice that others can learn from?

Q3 : What good practice case examples can most effectively illustrate and communicate the linkages between biodiversity, human health, and social inclusion - for Natura 2000 sites & green infrastructure across the 28 EU Member States.

Q4 : What are governance and policy recommendations for further developing and increasing the health and social benefits from nature?

The research examined the following benefits:

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CEP led on the benefits for promoting social cohesion.  The research involved interviews with stakeholders, a literature review, the development of case studies and a workshop bringing together academics, policy makers and practitioners involved with good practice case examples.

The final report synthesises the available scientific evidence on these overlooked benefits, which are often tied to ecosystem services, accompanied by over 100 practical case examples from across Europe, including 20 detailed case analyses. These examples show the importance of a strategic and planned approach to using nature for realising health and social benefits, including the integration of health aspects into green infrastructure planning at city and regional levels, but also vice versa the integration of the role of nature in health and social policies. The examples also illustrate how individual citizens have started local initiatives to improve health and social conditions.  Many health- and nature-related activities take place at the city and regional scale, but examples in the report also show how national level activity can promote the positive links between public health and nature through robust policy and institutional frameworks.