soil and public health

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Soil and public health are intrinsically linked.

90% of our food comes from the soil, and the health of that soil directly contributes to the nutritional value of the food growing within it. Likewise, the nutritional benefits of meat depend on the health of land the animals graze on.

Soil contributes significantly to the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Spending time in nature improves physical and mental health and wellbeing. Gardening, walking or simply sitting in a green space provides a myriad of benefits including reduced stress, anxiety and negative thoughts, and these activities are now being prescribed by doctors to combat various different conditions, as well as factors linked to ill health such as loneliness and isolation. Soil contains the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae that is absorbed through the skin of the fingers and palm when gardening and triggers a release of serotonin in the brain: the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin is a natural anti-depressant and mood lifter, it also strengthens the immune system and provides a general sense of wellbeing.

Bacteria found in soil is also a primary source of antibiotics and other medicines, as further evidence of soils as a vital human life support system.

learn more:

Lots more evidence on the links between soil and health here.

The Royal Society for Public Health has done research and projects around the benefits of the environment for public health and wellbeing.

The Garden Organic / Sustain Growing Health project provides a wealth of resources on the routine use of community food growing by the health and social care services as a way of promoting health and wellbeing: including research evidence, reports from UK initiatives, an events calendar, access to local projects and all the latest news from the sector.

Natural England have published their latest Monitoring Engagement with the Natural Environment Children’s Report. They have concluded that spending time in nature clearly improves children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, with 2/3 of children under 16 agreeing that “being in nature makes me very happy.”

The Oxford Textbook of Nature & Public Health provides a comprehensive overview of the role of nature in improving public health. Including sections on therapeutic landscapes, microbes and the immune system, neurophysiological responses and consequences for health, pathways to health promotion and disease prevention, and more.