A*Star to study impact of urban environment on mental health over three years

SINGAPORE – The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) will study the impact of the urban environment on mental health for three years, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on June 3.

The study will examine factors such as urban design characteristics, density and human behaviours, Heng said at the opening plenary session of the World Cities Summit 2024, held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Heng, chairman of the National Research Foundation Board, said insights from the study “will serve to better inform how we rejuvenate, reinvent and reimagine our city-state.”

The $1 million A*Star study, commissioned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Housing Board, will be funded by the Government’s $28 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan.

He The five-year plan was launched in December 2020. with an initial sum of 25 billion dollars.

The mental health study was awarded to A*Star in May 2024 and will be conducted by the agency’s Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said the study will design a data-driven method to assess how different aspects of the built environment affect the mental well-being of the general population.

Given Singapore’s highly urbanized environment, the MND said, the country “offers a unique opportunity to conduct mental health research.”

“Current research in our local context has primarily focused on the impact of our built environment on physical well-being and the benefits of greenery on mental well-being,” MND added.

“This project aims to expand this knowledge by investigating other aspects of the built environment more comprehensively and its impacts on mental wellbeing.”

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As part of the study, a list of indicators linking the built environment to mental well-being will be developed.

MND said these indicators could help urban planners understand how factors such as the provision of facilities, land use configuration and the intensity of development on a piece of land can affect mental wellbeing.

The researchers plan to validate the study findings by comparing them with four ongoing cohort studies in Singapore: Growing Up In Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes, Singapore Preconception Study Of Long-Term Maternal and Child Outcomes, Singapore Longitudinal Early Development Study and Mapping Antenatal Maternal Stress.

MND said all four studies have collected extensive data from study participants using validated questionnaires, including indicators of mental well-being.

The ministry added that the findings of the new study will inform how authorities plan, design and prioritize interventions in the built environment to enable a healthier and more liveable environment.

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