The Environment and Mental Health: A Guide for Clinicians

By Ante Lundberg | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Environmental Change and Human Health

Ante Lundberg Washington, DC Commission on Mental Health Services

Changes in the world around us test our ability to adapt and may threaten health and well-being. In industrialized societies most people lead lives very different from their grandparents, who were often directly dependent on the natural world. The electronic revolution continues to change how we live and work. Elsewhere, political and economic conditions force vast numbers of people to leave their homes. We are all exposed to the consequences of pollution, climate change, and loss of stratospheric ozone: real but insidious new threats from toxic substances, infections, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

In the community, environmental threats such as a hazardous waste site, a polluting factory, or a nuclear power plant can be seen and confronted, even if the danger they represent is invisible and technically complicated. Acid rain due to industrial activity in a remote area is a more abstract notion, even though its consequences, for example, dying trees and fish, are starkly visible. Global issues such as climate change, ozone depletion, and loss of biodiversity have potentially catastrophic consequences, yet to most people they seem distant and theoretical, obscured by a debate that is technical and driven by ideology, special interests, and emotion. But pressures on the environment will continue to build: Population and consumption are growing, and we can expect greater environmental health problems.

Mental health is inseparable from physical health. Both depend to a large extent on socioeconomic and environmental conditions. A report

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