The contribution of environmental science to mental health research: a scoping review

Roberts, Michaela; Colley, Kathryn; Currie, Margaret; Eastwood, Antonia; Li, Kuang-Heng; Avery, Lisa M.; Beevers, Lindsay C.; Braithwaite, Isobel; Dallimer, Martin; Davies, Zoe G.; Fisher, Helen L.; Gidlow, Christopher J.; Memon, Anjum; Mudway, Ian S.; Naylor, Larissa A.; Reis, Stefan ORCID:; Smith, Pete; Stansfeld, Stephen A.; Wilkie, Stephanie; Irvine, Katherine N.. 2023 The contribution of environmental science to mental health research: a scoping review [in special issue: Environmental Research and Public Health: featured review papers] International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20 (7), 5278. 36, pp.

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Mental health is influenced by multiple complex and interacting genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors. As such, developing state-of-the-art mental health knowledge requires collaboration across academic disciplines, including environmental science. To assess the current contribution of environmental science to this field, a scoping review of the literature on environmental influences on mental health (including conditions of cognitive development and decline) was conducted. The review protocol was developed in consultation with experts working across mental health and environmental science. The scoping review included 202 English-language papers, published between 2010 and 2020 (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic), on environmental themes that had not already been the subject of recent systematic reviews; 26 reviews on climate change, flooding, air pollution, and urban green space were additionally considered. Studies largely focused on populations in the USA, China, or Europe and involved limited environmental science input. Environmental science research methods are primarily focused on quantitative approaches utilising secondary datasets or field data. Mental health measurement was dominated by the use of self-report psychometric scales. Measures of environmental states or exposures were often lacking in specificity (e.g., limited to the presence or absence of an environmental state). Based on the scoping review findings and our synthesis of the recent reviews, a research agenda for environmental science’s future contribution to mental health scholarship is set out. This includes recommendations to expand the geographical scope and broaden the representation of different environmental science areas, improve measurement of environmental exposure, prioritise experimental and longitudinal research designs, and giving greater consideration to variation between and within communities and the mediating pathways by which environment influences mental health. There is also considerable opportunity to increase interdisciplinarity within the field via the integration of conceptual models, the inclusion of mixed methods and qualitative approaches, as well as further consideration of the socio-political context and the environmental states that can help support good mental health. The findings were used to propose a conceptual model to parse contributions and connections between environmental science and mental health to inform future studies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1660-4601
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: mental wellbeing, cognitive development, cognitive decline, environmental epidemiology, physical environment, chemical environment, biological environment
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 05 Apr 2023 10:13 +0 (UTC)

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