Research

Environment & health

Environment and health

The UK Environmental factors such as diet, pollution, living conditions and life experiences can affect whether people develop chronic diseases.

Learning more about how these environmental triggers affect health will help individuals and policy-makers to manage these risks to health, as well as aiding the development of strategies for the prevention of chronic diseases.

Objective

To explore the impact of our environment on health and wellbeing.

Now

  • The MRC has invested in interdisciplinary research to explore the relationship between environmental pollutants and human health to help develop evidence-based policies on harmful exposures.
  • We have invested jointly with other funders to better understand the health threats from infectious disease, including pathogens that have the potential to jump from animal hosts to humans.
  • MRC units and centres investigate how diet, lifestyle and other environmental factors influence health.
  • Through the establishment of facilities for high-throughput science, such as DNA sequencing hubs and the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, we have provided new capabilities to analyse biological markers and explore how our genes interact with the environment.

Future

  • We aim to better understand how the environment interacts with genes and the biological mechanisms through which they cause and influence chronic disease.
  • We seek to advance the measurement of environmental exposures to improve the evidence needed by policy makers.
  • The use of existing environmental monitoring data, for example relating to pollution or weather patterns, will contribute to the understanding of the environmental impacts on health.

How

Jointly with partners, we will continue to invest in environment and health research by building on new developments, such as high-throughput technologies or personal devices that can measure an individual’s exposure to environmental factors. Understanding the mechanisms by which exposure causes chronic disease will be key.

  • We will fund investigators to advance and apply new technologies and methodologies for exposure measurement. The development of such new measures will require collaborations between population health scientists and researchers in areas such as physical and engineering sciences, chemical biology and fundamental biomedicine.
  • We will support research to identify the biological indicators of environmental exposure, including metabolic and epigenetic changes, with the aim of improving the understanding of disease-causing molecular pathways.
  • We will maximise the use of our cohort resources in research on the effect of the physical and social environment on health.