There are significant health issues in Wales. Living in and making use of a good-quality natural environment could help address these as part of a healthy lifestyle and improved physical and mental health. For example, 25% of people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lives13, while almost 60% of people in Wales aged 16 or over are overweight or obese and the rate is increasing1.
Health inequalities between different parts of Wales are significant. In the case of childhood obesity for example, 19.2% of 4–5-year-olds in the Vale of Glamorgan are considered overweight or obese, while for Merthyr Tydfil that figure is 33.8%14. Child obesity is significantly higher in more deprived areas1, 14. Income poverty affects 23% of all people and 30% of people in Wales1. Healthy life expectancy also varies considerably between different local authorities1.
While more than 80% of adults in Wales take part in some type of outdoor recreation at least once a year, only about a quarter do so regularly2. Women are likely to be less active than men1. And though half of all children and young people participate in sport three times a week, participation rates reduce dramatically with age1. Around 3% of people volunteer to protect the environment1.
Although many people already enjoy the natural world, there are considerable challenges to reconnect some people to the natural environment, learning in and about the outdoors: everyone deserves to live in good-quality and attractive areas with good air and water quality, and should be encouraged in the use of the outdoors to improve both mental and physical well-being.
People will enjoy and feel connected to nature, recognising the inherent value of the natural environment and its role in health and well-being, Welsh culture and heritage. Learning in and about the natural environment and the benefits it provides will be part of everyone’s life – and begin in childhood. Making better use of local greenspace in both urban and rural areas will be the norm together with a recognition that physical activity in the outdoors contributes to the prevention of many physical and mental illnesses. Health inequalities between different areas of Wales and different communities will have been significantly reduced, with healthy life expectancy increased.
People will take pride in their local area and volunteer to help look after the natural environment, learning new things and giving back to society, with their efforts recognised and valued.
People will feel reassured that any potential environmental risks, such as living in an area prone to flood or near an industrial site, are being well managed with businesses helping to improve local environments as part of their corporate social responsibility.
NRW will encourage access to the land and water it manages and provide a wide range of opportunities for recreation and volunteering. Access is viewed in its broadest sense – including information and support as well as physical access. We will have joint initiatives with Public Health Wales, Sport Wales and other experts where using the natural environment to improve health and well-being, and active travel such as cycling and walking is encouraged. Social science will help us understand people’s behaviours and how best to nudge and drive change.
The natural environment will be seen as integral to local well-being plans, with Welsh landscapes and seascapes inspiring lifelong learning and participation in sports and the arts.
Lead by example
Working with our partners
Indicators for Wales: How will we know if anything has changed?