About Our Research

At the Centre for Urban Mental Health, researchers from different fields use the tools of complexity science to identify new pathways to improve mental health in the city.

Our mission is to find new pathways that can be targeted with interventions to improve urban mental health that take into account the complexity and dynamics of mental health problems and mental health disorders in an urban environment. 

Urban Environments

Urban living is on the rise: for the first time in history, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. And this number is expected to rise to 66 percent by 2050. Urban environments are economically attractive and exciting, but can also be more challenging and stressful than rural environments (‘urban stress’).

At the Centre for Urban Mental Health, we use state-of-the art complexity science to understand the dynamics of mental health problems in an urban environment. Why do some groups or individuals thrive in an urban setting, whereas others are more vulnerable and develop mental problems? We pay special attention to common mental health problems: depression, anxiety and addiction.

Want to learn more about how complexity science helps us understand the dynamics of mental health taking shape in an urban environment?

In this interview, Peter Sloot, Professor of Complex Adaptive Systems, explains.

In our research, we integrate previously unconnected theories and sources to leverage new points for interventions and policy making at different levels. These will be tested in collaboration with societal partners and have direct relevance for mental health in general, and for Amsterdam in particular.

Research Priority Area

Urban Mental Health (UMH) is one of the Research Priority Areas of the University of Amsterdam. The Centre for Urban Mental Health is embedded within three faculties. It is unified by the emerging knowledge and skills from the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Faculty of Science, together with the Institute for Advanced Study. This collaboration brings together unique multidisciplinary research teams and stakeholders from the Amsterdam region.

Position paper

Click to find out more about our UMH Position paper that was published in Lancet Psychiatry in 2021.

Conceptual UMH Framework

Figure: Conceptual framework of the relationship between factors in the urban environment and common mental disorder outcomes 

This framework conceptualises urban mental health phenomena from a complex systems perspective. Meta factors (grey box) listed on the left are considered to have a dynamic impact on the urban environment and its inhabitants at large. Factors are categorized as urban factors (blue box; e.g. air pollution or built environment), social factors (green box; e.g. social cohesion) or individual factors (yellow box; e.g. individual demographic, psychological, or neurobiological characteristics). Oscillating arrows between the factors and common mental disorder (CMD) symptoms signify the different temporal scales across which factors can assert their effect. CMDs are represented as symptom clusters (red circle) connected by bridge symptoms. Feedback arrows represent the possibility of feedback from CMD symptoms to explanatory factors, which can also occur over different timescales.

This figure is derived from the the UMH Position paper that was published in Lancet Psychiatry in 2021.

Work Packages & Projects

Click to find out more about our Work Packages and Projects.

Research Articles

Click to see published work by our UMH network.