Nature impact on mental health distribution [NAMED]

Last updated on 15-5-2019 by Daisy Tysmans
July 1, 2017
June 30, 2021

Service(s) working on this project

Sciensano's project investigator(s):

In short

Mental illnesses are a growing problem in modern societies. In Belgium, the number of people presenting psychological difficulties increased by 6 % between 2008 (26%) and 2013 (32%). Strikingly, these symptoms are more frequent in the Brussels-Capital Region than in the rest of the country. Several international studies have shown negative impacts of urbanisation on mental health, whereas others highlighted the beneficial impacts of natural areas. Only limited research is available on this topic in Belgium. In the NAMED project we therefore study how the built and non-built environment impact the mental wellbeing of Brussels’ citizens.

Project summary

The NAMED project focuses on the Brussels-Capital Region and aims to:

  • assess the relationships between the (non-)built environments, air, noise pollution and mental health
  • gain knowledge on the underlying mechanisms. 

To achieve these goals, we combine 2 complementary approaches:

  1. on the one hand, we conduct an epidemiological study based on the coupling between data from the national health interview surveys and indicators describing each participant’s place of residence in terms of urban characteristics, air quality and noise. These indicators are developed specifically for the project and rely on geographical information and monitoring systems. This step permits to explore the associations between mental health and living environment. It also allows us to investigate the role of potential intermediary variables, such as the impact of socioeconomic factors, social support, leisure activities, etc. 
  2. in parallel, we interview inhabitants (semi-structured interviews organised in their neighbourhood) about their perceptions and preferences regarding their living environment in relation to mental health. We also consult local stakeholders and experts through focus groups and extended peer evaluation.

These approaches involve experts in medical, epidemiological, geographical and social sciences and enables us to get a comprehensive overview of the topic. Conclusions will permit to inform decision makers and suggest concrete, evidence-based actions significant for public health, urban planning and management of nature.

Associated Health Topics

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