Wales faces 'triple challenge' in future health and wellbeing, Public Health Wales says

The future health and wellbeing of people living in Wales faces an unprecedented "triple challenge", a report by Public Health Wales has warned.

A study, said to be the first of its kind, has looked at the combined impact of Brexit, coronavirus and climate change on people's lives.

It found evidence the nation's diet, nutrition, active travel and alcohol consumption could be affected.

All three factors were found to be possible causes of an increase in the amount of alcohol people drink.

The paper pointed out the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted successive lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic could potentially cause people to drink more - exacerbating health vulnerability, making risk-taking behaviour more likely, and increasing mental health issues and violence.

One year after the first lockdown, 18% of people in Wales reported drinking more alcohol than they did prior to the pandemic, which equates to around 445,000 adults.

A recent report from England noted an increase of 21% in alcoholic liver deaths during the year of the pandemic - deaths believed to have been accelerated by increased alcohol consumption during lockdowns.

Increase in temperature and heat-related extreme weather events has also been linked to higher alcohol consumption and poorer health outcomes.

While Future Trade Agreements following Brexit could affect the nation's ability to legislate or regulate stronger alcohol, food or tobacco labelling standards and content.

Credit: PA

The report suggests the groups that may be worst-off in the immediate and long-term future could include those in rural communities, fishers and farmers, those on low incomes, and children and young people.

Liz Green, consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the complex, interwoven relationships between health, wellbeing, inequalities, the economy, the environment, and society as a whole.

"In doing so, it has created new inequalities, but also exacerbated existing health inequalities.

"Events such as the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union and climate change are also having a cumulative impact on the Welsh population's health and wellbeing."

She added: "In short, Wales and the UK are facing an unprecedented 'Triple Challenge' that must be tackled in a coordinated fashion - one which considers the future of the planet and its population and identifies solutions to the well-being and economic challenges which Brexit and Covid-19 have brought sharply into focus."

The report claims the seismic events of Brexit and the pandemic could represent an opportunity to support a "green industrial revolution", "green jobs" and more employment to create a fairer, more sustainable Welsh economy.

Potential actions included policy makers working with public health practitioners to the lessen the impact of trade deals on the population's health.

Public Health Wales have confirmed that two further papers on food security and the effects on rural communities will follow the report.