NEEDS: Dynamic Urban Environmental Exposures on Depression and Suicide


NEEDS study protocol published in BMJ Open

Environmental exposures are intertwined with mental health outcomes. People are exposed not only to the environments in which they currently live, but also to a multitude of environments along their daily movements and through their residential relocations. However, most research assumes that people are immobile, disregarding that such dynamic exposures also serve as stressors or buffers potentially associated with depression and suicide risk. The aim of the NEEDS study is to examine how dynamic environmental exposures along people’s daily movements and over their residential histories affect depression and suicide mortality in the Netherlands.

The research design comprises two studies emphasizing the temporality of exposures. First, a cross-sectional study is assessing how daily exposures correlate with depression. A nationally representative survey was administered to participants recruited through stratified random sampling of the population aged 18–65 years. Survey data were enriched with smartphone-based data (e.g., global positioning system (GPS) tracking, Bluetooth sensing, social media usage, communication patterns) and environmental exposures (e.g., green and blue spaces, noise, air pollution). Second, a longitudinal population register study is addressing the extent to which past environmental exposures over people’s residential history affect suicide risk later in life. Statistical and machine learning-based models are being developed to quantify environment–health relations.