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11 January 2018

King's research studies mental health of city dwellers

King's researchers develop app to help with improving mental well-being in cities


A King’s study published last week has highlighted the ways in which exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities is beneficial for mental wellbeing. Dr Andrea Mechelli (IoPPN) worked with J&L Gibbons and Nomad Projects to develop a smartphone app, Urban Mind. They used data from the app to examine how exposure to natural features in cities affects a person’s mental wellbeing.

The study’s Urban Mind app monitored 108 individuals who collectively completed 3,013 assessments over a one-week period, with the majority of those assessed living in London. The results showed both immediate and time-lagged associations between mental wellbeing and contact with nature. These associations were still evident several hours after exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong, indicating time-lasting benefits and underlining the need for Londoners to make the most of the capital’s public parks and green spaces.

The data also showed that the beneficial impact of nature on mental wellbeing was greater in people with higher levels of trait impulsivity and a higher risk of developing mental health issues.

Dr Andrea Mechelli said, ‘We hope this line of research will lead to the development of low-cost scalable interventions aimed at promoting mental health in urban populations.’

In this story

Andrea Mechelli

Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health