Thesis in Geography under the supervision of Isabelle Thomas and Sophie Vanwambeke within the framework of the interdisciplinary project NAMED financed by belspo.
NAMED – Nature Impact on Mental Health Distribution
The NAMED project investigates how the built and non-built environment impact the mental wellbeing of Brussels’ citizens. Mental illnesses appear as a growing problem in modern societies, tending to be more frequent in big cities. In Belgium, the national health surveys (Health Interview Survey, HIS) underlined a degradation of the mental health of the population: the proportion of respondents presenting psychological difficulties rose from 25% to 32% between 2008 and 2013. Strikingly, these symptoms are more prevalent in the Brussels-Capital Region (40%) than in Wallonia (35%) or in Flanders (29%) (Survey 2013). Several international studies have shown that the built environment has negative impacts on mental health, while others highlighted the beneficial impacts of natural areas on this component, stress, but also more generally on well-being. In Belgium, only limited research is currently available. The NAMED project tackles the topic with different research perspectives. From a quantitative perspective, HIS data are used to investigate the relationships between mental health and the built/non-built environment, while accounting for demographic, socioeconomic factors, lifestyle, air and noise pollution. To do so, indicators describing each participant’s place of residence are developed using geographical information systems and monitoring tools. In parallel, from a qualitative analysis perspective, Brussels residents are interviewed to record individual perceptions about the quality of their living environment, on their mental wellbeing and on the link between those two. Local stakeholders and experts are also consulted through focus groups and extended peer evaluation of the results. By gathering specialists in social, geographical, medical, epidemiology sciences and involving citizens and local stakeholders of the Brussels-Capital Region, the project intends to combine disciplines and perspectives in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the topic.