Urban Mind: is an app that measures the experience of city living in the moment. By collecting real-time data, the researchers were able to understand how different aspects of the urban environment affect mental wellbeing.
Nature in the city offers hope for mood disorders: The research from King’s College London suggests that the more sensitive you are to mood disorders such as ADHD, bipolar and addiction problems the more positively you are likely to respond to natural features within an urban environment such as birdsong, parks, greenery, and clear sight of sky and trees.
Real time Research: The fact that city dwellers feel the benefits of a closeness to nature is well understood, this research allowed investigators to use the instant nature of mobile technology to track mood changes as participants reported in real time how they were feeling emotionally depending on their immediate surroundings.
Is the nature effect universal? The investigators were interested in whether the beneficial effects of nature might vary from one individual to another, depending on their risk of developing poor mental health. To assess this, each participant was first rated on “trait impulsivity” which is a psychological measure of one’s tendency to behave with little forethought or consideration of consequences, a classic trait for those prone to addictive compulsions, mood swings and ADHD.
Why this matters? Over three-and-a-half billion people, more than half the world’s population, live in urban areas. Ongoing urbanization has major implications for global mental health because people who live in urban environments are at higher risk of a range of mental-health issues. Existing research shows that the adverse impact of urban living can be reversible with some categories of patients showing improved clinical outcomes after moving from urban to rural environments.
What the researchers say: “The research findings provide empirical support for the notion that short-term exposure to specific natural features has measurable beneficial effects on mental well-being. The Kings College research complements existing evidence from previous studies that examined cumulative long-term exposure to nature. There was also a statistically significant interaction between closeness to nature and trait impulsivity on momentary mental well-being in particular. The hope is that the results will inform future urban planning and social policy aimed at improving design and health”.
Lead Research Team
Dr Andrea Mechelli, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOSIS STUDIES Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London,
Johanna Gibbons and Neil Davidson Landscape architects at J&L GIBBONS
Michael Smythe, an artist and action-based researcher at NOMAD PROJECTS