Globally, almost a quarter of all annual deaths can be linked to the environment
8 July 2022 – Leading life, health and wellbeing insurer AIA Australia has released a new report highlighting the widespread impact that human interactions with the environment have on health - further demonstrating its commitment to address the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Globally, almost a quarter of the 12.6 million annual deaths are linked to the environment and nearly two-thirds of these are attributable to NCDs such as cancer and diabetes. AIA’s new report, “The Environment and our Health”, builds on its 5590+ report and summarises existing evidence and scientific literature, highlighting the bidirectional connection between our health and environmental factors such as air pollution and climate change. By raising awareness of the environment-health connection, the insurer hopes to empower collective action and innovative solutions that will lead to positive outcomes for all people and the planet.
Key insights from the report include:
- Climate change, recognised as the biggest global threat of the 21st century by The Lancet in 2009i, directly and indirectly increases risk of NCDs. It can impact our health in a myriad of ways including directly via trauma related to extreme weather events (such as floods and heat waves)ii iii or indirectly through long-term emotional distress triggered by threats to the current and future wellbeing of the earth and its people[iv].
- Air pollution is the second leading cause of global NCDs, second only to smoking tobacco. Globally, almost one-third of cardiovascular diseases are caused by air pollution consisting of household air pollution (17 percent), ambient air pollution (13 percent), second-hand tobacco smoke (three percent) and exposure to lead (2 percent)v
- Agriculture and food production is a major cause of global environmental changevi with obesity and diet related NCDs driven mainly by unhealthy diets with related impacts also including an 80 percent increase in the prevalence of diabetes globally and an 860 percent increase in the use of nitrogen fertiliser globally.vii
- Urbanisation and the built environment also have a huge influence on physical and mental health, with well-planned cities having the potential to promote health and wellbeingviii through initiatives such as green spaces, walking and cycling paths, recreational facilities and sports infrastructure.
CEO of AIA Australia, Damien Mu, said that the impact of the environment on our health is a societal issue requiring urgent attention.
“At AIA Australia, our purpose is to make a difference in people's lives, and we’re passionate about developing and supporting initiatives that focus on health prevention and promotion to reduce the prevalence of chronic illnesses.
“We are at a critical point where we, as a society need to take concrete steps to improve the way we interact with the environment. Encouraging policies and programs that consider both the impact on the environment and how those then exacerbate NCDs – is an upstream preventative approach that governments and corporates should embrace for the benefit of all Australians,” he added.
“At an individual level, focusing on the small ‘somethings’ – such as choosing a healthy and planet-friendly diet which increases nutrient intake, or taking public transport to reduce vehicle emissions – can make a huge difference to the long-term health of our nation and planet.”
The insights from “The Environment and Our Health” have been incorporated into AIA Australia’s wellbeing strategy, as highlighted in its 5590+ framework. For more information on the research linking the environment and its impact on non-communicable diseases, please see the full report https://www.aia.com.au/content/dam/au/en/docs/reports/the-environment-and-our-health.pdf.
- ENDS -