King’s College London: Wellcome Grants £1.68 Million to Investigate the Impact of Extreme Heat on Urban Community Mental Health

With funding from the Wellcome Climate Impacts Award, new IoPPN-led research will examine how extreme hot weather impacts mental health on those living in urban environments, using London as a case-study.

The increased frequency of heatwaves, and the known relationship between extreme climate and mental health, has prompted this research. The project, led by Professor Andrea Mechelli, will use electronic medical records and smartphone-based data, spanning over a period of 15-years, to examine the impacts of extreme heat on mental health in vulnerable urban communities.

The study will look to develop nature-based solutions to the intersectional challenges of climate change and mental health in cities, and forms part of King’s Climate & Sustainability commitment, which aims to rapidly scale up research into the climate crisis and its impact.

Mental health and climate change are two of the greatest challenges facing our society. Until now these challenges have been discussed and treated separately, and the effects of extreme heat events on mental health are still under-investigated and unrecognised within current policies and practice. This is a missed opportunity that we aim to address with the present project. It is time to bring mental health into the climate agenda.

Professor Andrea Mechelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health
The study will assess two complementary sets of data to understand the relationship between climate and mental health alongside map data, meteorological, air pollution and green space data to have the best understanding of the environment, temperature and wellbeing of the participants. The two datasets will include electronic medical records and measures of mental health collected via personal smartphones.

With active participation from people with lived experience of mental illness, as well as working with organisations within urban communities, this research hopes to understand the relationship between extreme heat in urban areas and mental wellbeing.

Ultimately the project seeks to instigate change to planning policies in London and similar urban centres to benefit the wellbeing of residents and vulnerable communities.

The cross-disciplinary and cross-sector project team comprises researchers from IoPPN including Professors Andrea Mechelli and Robert Stewart, Dr. Ioannis Bakolis and Dr Stefania Tognin, alongside The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Stanford University, Nomad Projects, London National Park City, J&L Gibbons, Nick Bridge CMG, Special Representative for Climate Change UK Government, Matthew White, Head of Planning Law, Herbert Smith Freehills and Professor David Osborn, University College London.

Wellcome Climate Impacts awards aim to make the impacts of climate change visible across a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes in order to drive urgent climate policy and practice change at scale.