Health

 

Biodiversity underpins systems that support all living things on this planet.  If we look after the natural world, it can bring additional benefits that make our lives more healthy, happy and fulfilling. 

 

 

garden party © JNCC

 

 

Medical professionals and others increasingly recognise that contact with nature on a daily basis is vital to our physical and mental health, and that modern lifestyles often lack this contact.  In the UK, the NHS spent about £750 million in 2007 on drugs to treat conditions brought on by unhealthy lifestyles, 1 and £264 million in 2009 on drugs to treat depression. 2  The case studies on these pages show how time spent enjoying nature can help people to avoid or recover from various types of illness.man preparing injection © Ruud de Jong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biodiversity has also helped individuals and communities overcome specific problems from physical disability to social deprivation, and is a rich source of chemicals for use as medicines.  Nature-based remedies are used by more people worldwide than western medicine. 3  For many people in developing countries, plant-based medicines provide their primary healthcare, while in developed countries traditional medicines are an increasingly popular alternative to conventional pharmaceuticals.  About 15 thousand species of plants currently used for medicine are now threatened with global extinction. 3Traditional medicine © John Byer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although about half of synthetic drugs currently used have a natural origin, 4 the potential of biodiversity to provide substances with pharmaceutical benefit is only just beginning to be explored.  The next species to go extinct might just be one that holds a cure for a major human disease – and unless we save it we will never know.

 
 
 
 
 
References
1. NHS Information Centre as quoted in Telegraph news story on cost of lifestyle diseases (accessed February 2010)
2. Department of Health statistics as quoted in Independent news story  on cost of depression (accessed February 2010)
3. Plantlife Medicinal Plants Conservation initiative (accessed February 2010)


 

Further reading
New Economics Foundation (2005) Well-being and the environment (accessed February 2010)

Wild Solutions, Andrew Beattie and Paul R. Erlich.  Pub. Yale University Press (2001). Chapter 12 Wild Medicine, pp 202- 221