We all want to live in a healthy environment, but what does that actually mean? Is it about having access to green spaces, clean air, or safe streets? In this article, we will explore the understanding of key constitutes of a healthy environment. As per a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, five key attributes of healthy environments are sounds and sights, accessibility, familiarity, safety, and mental health and wellbeing.

1. Sounds and Sights

Understanding What Constitutes a Healthy Environment

According to the study, sounds and sights are important indicators of a healthy environment. This includes having access to natural landscapes, green spaces, clean air, noise-free, and good visual aesthetics.

Sounds and sights significantly affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. For example, excessive noise, such as traffic, industrial machinery, and loud music exposure to high levels can lead to stress, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Noise pollution can also impair cognitive functions and concentration. The ability to hear and interpret sounds is fundamental for social interaction, safety, and maintaining relationships. Therefore, hearing impairment can lead to isolation and negatively impact mental health.

On the other hand, natural sounds like birdsong, flowing water, and rustling leaves have a calming and soothing effect. Exposure to these sounds can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. Nature sounds are often used in therapies to alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation.

Unsightly and cluttered environments, such as billboards, graffiti, and litter, contribute to visual pollution. Exposure to visual pollution can lead to stress, decreased property values, and reduced aesthetic enjoyment of natural landscapes. On the contrary, exposure to natural landscapes, green spaces, and scenic views has been linked to improved mental health and well-being. Nature’s beauty can reduce stress, increase happiness, and enhance cognitive functioning.

Visual art, including paintings, sculptures, and architecture, can have a profound impact on human emotions and creativity. Visually pleasing surroundings, such as well-designed buildings and public spaces, can promote a sense of pride and community.

Incorporating natural elements into architectural and interior design, known as biophilic design, can improve indoor air quality and promote feelings of well-being. Features like natural light, indoor plants, and natural materials can positively influence human health and productivity.

2. Accessibility

Understanding What Constitutes a Healthy Environment

This includes having access to public transportation, affordable housing, and community resources such as parks and recreational facilities. This also includes ramps and elevators to ensure that everyone can navigate their environment safely and comfortably.

2.1 Public Transportation Systems

Public transportation systems, like buses and trains, can help decrease the number of individual cars on the road. This reduction in private vehicle usage leads to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, thus improving air quality and reducing the risk of respiratory diseases. On the other hand, efficient public transportation reduces traffic congestion, which not only saves time for commuters but also reduces stress and frustration associated with traffic jams. Lower stress levels contribute to better mental health.

In addition, walking or cycling to and from public transportation stops promotes physical activity. People who use public transportation tend to walk more, which can help combat sedentary lifestyles and reduce the risk of obesity and related health issues. At the same time, public transportation is more affordable than owning and maintaining a personal vehicle. Access to affordable transportation can reduce financial stress for individuals and families, improving overall well-being.

2.2 Affordable Housing

Affordable housing located near job centres and public transportation hubs can reduce commute times. Shorter commutes lead to less stress, more leisure time, and improved work-life balance. In addition, it can alleviate financial burdens, reduce housing-related stress, and free up resources for other essential needs, such as healthcare and education.

2.3 Community Resources

Access to parks and recreational facilities encourages physical activity, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve mental health. Green spaces also provide a sense of tranquillity and connection to nature, reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Ramps and elevators in public spaces make communities more accessible to people with disabilities. This inclusivity improves mobility, independence, and social integration, leading to improved mental health and overall quality of life.

Community resources like parks and recreational facilities also serve as gathering places for people from diverse backgrounds. These spaces foster social interactions, build a sense of belonging, and reduce social isolation, positively impacting mental health.

In addition, parks and green spaces contribute to urban biodiversity and can help mitigate the urban heat island effect. Well-designed urban greenery can improve air quality, reduce temperatures, and provide habitat for wildlife, enhancing overall environmental health.

3. Familiarity

Understanding What Constitutes a Healthy Environment

Familiarity was seen as a moderating factor in the link between safety and healthy environments. Feeling a sense of belonging and connection to their communities is an important attribute of a healthy environment. It fosters mental and emotional well-being, provides a support system, promotes civic engagement and empowerment, encourages environmental stewardship, and enhances resilience in the face of environmental challenges. These factors collectively contribute to a more sustainable, vibrant, and healthy community and environment.

In the face of environmental challenges such as natural disasters or climate change, strong community bonds are crucial for resilience and adaptation. Communities that feel a strong sense of belonging can come together to plan and respond effectively to crises, reducing their negative impacts. Therefore, understanding what constitutes a healthy environment becomes crucial to managing environmental crises.

4. Safety

Safe streets, well-lit public spaces, and access to emergency services

Safety is a key indicator of a healthy environment. This includes having safe streets, well-lit public spaces, and access to emergency services. In addition, community policing and crime prevention strategies to promote safety in their neighbourhoods.

Strict safety protocols can prevent pollution, conserve resources, safeguard against environmental disasters, protect workers, enhance public safety, and contribute to overall physical and mental well-being. A commitment to safety is essential for creating sustainable and healthy environments for present and future generations.

5. Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health services, social support networks, and opportunities for physical activity

Access to mental health services, social support networks, and opportunities for physical activity and recreation is an important attribute of a healthy environment. Mental health and well-being are vital indicators of a healthy environment because they reflect the emotional and psychological dimensions of human health. A healthy environment not only provides physical safety but also fosters social connections, reduces stress, promotes resilience, and ensures equitable access to mental health resources. Prioritizing mental health in environmental planning and policy-making is essential for creating thriving and sustainable communities.


Based on the above five attributes, individuals can plan their future and make decisions to improve environmental health. On the other hand, policymakers and public health officials can develop policies and interventions that are more responsive to the needs of these communities. For example, investing in public transportation, affordable housing, and community resources such as parks and recreational facilities. It might also involve promoting community policing to improve safety. Therefore, understanding what constitutes a healthy environment is crucial for environmental management.

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