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

Michaela Roberts, Kathryn Colley, Margaret Currie, Antonia Eastwood, Kuang-Heng Li, Lisa Marie Avery, Lindsay C Beevers, Isobel Braithwaite, Martin Dallimer, Zoe Davies, Helen L Fisher, Christopher J Gidlowh, Anjum Memon, Ian S Mudway, Larissa A Naylor, Stefan Reism, Pete Smith, Stephen Stansfeld, Stephanie Wilkie, Katherine N. Irvine* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental health is influenced by multiple complex and interacting genetic, psychological, social, and environmental factors. As such, developing the state of the art in 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 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 which 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 USA, China, or Europe, and involved limited environmental science input. Environmental science research methods 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 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 geographical scope and broaden representation of different environmental science areas, improve measurement of environmental exposure, prioritise experimental and longitudinal research designs, and give 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, 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. Findings were used to propose a conceptual model to parse contributions and connections between environmental science and mental health to inform future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5278
Number of pages36
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

This scoping review was funded through a project commissioned by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC; NE/M005410/2), as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and managed under the Valuing Nature Programme ( The funders commented on an initial draft of the study protocol but had no role in data collection and analysis, decision on where to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Manuscript development and publication was further supported by Scottish Government Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division, Strategic Research Programmes 2016-2121 (RD3.4.3 Landscapes and Wellbeing) and 2022-2027 (Topic C6: Use of Outdoors and Greenspace).
LA contribution was supported by the Scottish Government Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division, Strategic Research Programme 2016-21 (Theme 2: Sustainable Land Management and Rural Economies). LB was funded by UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Water Resilient Cities project (grant number EP/N030419/1). IB was supported by a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Fellowship. ZGD was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Consolidator Grant No. 726104). HLF was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for Society and Mental Health at King’s College London
(ES/S012567/1). IM was supported by the NIHR Health Protection Research Units in Environmental Exposures and Health, and Chemical and Radiation Threats and Hazards, a partnership between the UK Health Security Agency and Imperial College London. LAN is supported by NERC (NE/R009236/1). The work of SR was supported by NERC award number NE/R016429/1 as part of the UK-SCAPE
programme delivering National Capability. The views, interpretations, and conclusions in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of NERC or other funders supporting author’s involvement or entities with whom authors are affiliated. We wish to thank the following individuals for their contribution to the expert workshop: Scott MacPherson, George Morris, Lisa Page, Tara Quinn, Melody Rhydderch, Ben Wheeler, Zulin Zhang.

Data Availability Statement

Data associated with this review are available in the Supplementary Materials.


Dive into the research topics of 'The contribution of environmental science to mental health research: A scoping review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this