Review on Environmental Science and Mental Health

Mental health is governed by complex, interacting factors, which has led to a general move towards developing a more holistic approach to its  management.  In response to this, the Natural Environment Research Council commissioned the 'Systematic Review of the Role for Environmental Science in Mental Health Research' as part of the Valuing Nature Programme.  

The project sought to examine where and how the environmental sciences might contribute to the mental health domain, and to identify exemplar case studies, highlight gaps, and outline areas for potential future investment.  The final report, which summaries findings from the project, is now published.

Download the report here

The review carried out a wide-ranging scoping exercise, looked at other systematic reviews of previous research and over 200 individual studies, and ran workshops which identified 16 case studies, showing advances in academic understanding of the nexus between environmental science and mental health.

Some of the key recommendations from the report include:

  • Exploiting large-scale datasets - which will require appropriate investment, resources, and guidance to be succesfully implemented
  • Adopting longitudinal approaches - which enable long-term, or life-span understanding
  • Integrative complex systems research - which draw from environmental sciences to understand how socio-ecological systems iteratively interact and impact on individual and community mental health
  • Mixed methods approach - which will allow richer understanding and can help address the challenges of bringing different research traditions together
  • Community of practice - by fostering novel and established interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations through cross-council and aligned individual funding calls that facilitate communication and idea development across disciplines.

A peer-reviewed manuscript is expected to be published shortly.

The project was led by Dr Katherine Irvine, and her team, at the James Hutton Institute

Katherine is a senior researcher in conservation behaviour / environmental psychology focusing on people-environment relationships. She has an interdisciplinary background in molecular biology, natural resource management, conservation behaviour and environmental psychology, on which she draws to investigate the interface between people and their environmental settings (for example, natural, built, home, office) with an aim to develop bridges between issues of ecological quality, health/wellbeing and sustainability.