WHO Infographic: Environmental Impacts on Health - What is the Big Picture?

| |
World Health Organisation

Summary Statement

This infographic was produced by the World Health Organization to illustrate the global burden of preventable deaths, including from workplace illness and injury.


23% of all global deaths are linked to the environment.
That's roughly 12.6 million deaths a year.


Where is it happening?

3.8 million in South-East Asia Region
3.5 million in Western Pacific Region
2.2 million in Africa Region
1.4 million in European Region
854,000 in Eastern Mediterranean Region
847,000 in the Region of the Americas


Top 10 Causes of Death from the Environment

8.2 million out of 12.6 million deaths caused by the environment are due to noncommunicable diseases

1st Stroke 2.5 million
2nd Ischaemic heart disease 2.3 million
3rd Unintentional injuries 1.7 million
4th Cancers 1.7 million
5th Chronic respiratory diseases 1.4 million
6th Diarrhoeal diseases 846,000
7th Respiratory infections 567,000
8th Neonatal conditions 270,000
9th Malaria 259,000
10th Intentional injuries 246,000


How the Environment Impacts our Health

People are exposed to risk factors in their homes, work places and communities through:

  • Air Pollution- including indoors and outdoors
  • Inadequate Water, Sanitation and hygiene
  • Chemicals and biological agents
  • Radiation- ultraviolet and ionizing
  • Community noise
  • Occupational risks
  • Agricultural practices including pesticide-use, waste-water reuse
  • Built environments including housing and roads
  • Climate change


Who is Most Impacted by the Environment

Environmental impacts on health are uneven across age and mostly affect the poor.

Low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest share of environmental disease.

Children under five and adults between 50 and 75 years old are most affected by the environment.

graphic of an elderly person and a babyYearly, 4.9 million deaths in adults between 50 and 75 years. The most common causes are noncommunicable diseases and injuries.

1.7 million deaths in children under five. The most prominent causes are lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases.

Men are slightly more affected due to occupational risks and injuries.

Women bear higher exposures to traditional environmental risks such as smoke from cooking with solid fuels or carrying water.


We Can Improve our Environment to Improve Our Health

These WIN-WIN strategies are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development GOALS- 17 Goals to Transform Our World:

  1. Apply low carbon strategies in energy generation, housing and the industry.
  2. Use more active and public transportation.
  3. Introduce clean fuels for cooking, heating and lighting and clean technologies.
  4. Reduce occupational exposures and improve working conditions.
  5. Increase access to safe water and adequate sanitation and promote hand washing.
  6. Change consuption patterns to lower the use of harmful chemicals, minimize waste production and safe energy.
  7. Implement interventions that can increase sun protective behaviour.
  8. Pass smoking bans to reduce exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
  9. Always use a health in all policies approach to create healthier environments and prevent disease.

Let's all work towards a healthier environment for our health.


United Nations logo for Sustainable Development Goals- the 17 goals it established in order to transform our world

World Health Organization logo