Physical environment: key points

  • The physical environment can influence physical and mental health through a variety of routes that relate to both environmental hazards (e.g. poor air quality) and positive aspects of the environment that can create and nurture health.
  • Policy makers in Scotland and Europe have acknowledged these links, and through documents such as Good Places, Better Health, Creating Places  and the Commission on Social Determinants of Health( 7.4 MB) have sought to inform action on the physical environment to improve health and tackle inequalities.
  • The Place Standard  for Scotland, a tool for assessing the quality of a particular place in order to drive or shape change, has been developed in partnership by Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland and Architecture and Design Scotland.
  • The impact of some aspects of the physical environment on health (e.g. greenspace and overcrowding) varies by location and relative deprivation. Others (such as global warming and traffic) have implications for the whole Scottish population, though more disadvantaged groups are likely to experience the most serious impact. 

  • The last major update of this section was completed in March 2016.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end March 2017.