Psychosocial Health and Well-being

Anglesey Lights, Wales. Photo: Copyright © Cathy Baldwin 2020

The influence of the natural world and built environment on our mental health and well-being is being increasingly documented with certitude.

Psychosocial health and well-being is concerned with the psychological effects of social experiences, so the effect of factors in the wider society outside ourselves on our mental health and well-being. Psychosocial health research sits on the corner of sociology and social science, and clinical psychology. Often a combination of theories and methods from sociology and non-clinical fields of psychology such as community, social and environmental psychology are needed to understand social experiences and psychological consequences. Clinical psychology and social epidemiology helps us to identify the associated mental and physical health effects of particular social experiences.

Working on health impact assessments (HIAs) of development proposals for infrastructure, built environment and energy projects that could potentially bring about changes in the social and environmental factors that enable people to lead healthy lives, I became strongly aware of the importance of these projects’ effects on human mental health and well-being.

Impacts could be felt or experienced via changes to key social and environmental resources found in urban and rural communities. Examples include changes to social networks connecting people, cohesive relationships within and between social and ethnic groups, natural and historical landscapes and scenery, people’s emotional and psychological attachments to places and communities, and the impacts on psychological health and well-being.

I saw the need to improve understanding of this subject among developers, policy-makers, planners, engineers, architects, environmentalists and even the medical profession itself. This would enable action to be taken by HIA practitioners or socially-aware development practitioners within development projects to mitigate any potential negative consequences for mental health stemming from rapid environmental or social change.

In response, I have developed a series of academic and practitioner articles with my collaborators outlining how to approach, understand, theorise and measure the psychosocial and emotional health effects of infrastructure and energy developments. I drew on a range of academic disciplines including environmental and community psychology, sociology, anthropology and social epidemiology when writing about psychosocial health in this context.

This approach could be applied to any type of environmental or social change that feels beyond local people’s control, such as events caused by climate change or other disasters or calamities.

The Articles

  1. How to understand and measure the impact of developments on people’s emotional and psychological attachments to places, landscapes and communities:
    Baldwin, C. (2015) ‘Assessing Impacts on People’s Relationships to Place and Community in Health Impact Assessment: An Anthropological Approach’, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal (IAPA) 33(2): 154-159.

  2. Using health impact assessment to analyse the impact of development on social networks and cohesive relationships using a social well-being indicator set called the Neighbourhood Flourishing Framework (devised by Dr Jamie Anderson): Anderson, J and Baldwin, C (2017) ‘Building Wellbeing: Neighbourhood Flourishing and Approaches for Participatory Urban Design Intervention’, in R. Phillips, C. Wong (eds.), Handbook of Community Well-Being Research, International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life, Springer Publications. DOI 10.1007/978-94-024-0878-2_17

  3. A psychological model/framework through which to understand the influences of public understanding of risks from nuclear power on psychosocial well-being:
    Baldwin, C and Rawstorne, P (2018) ‘Public Understanding of Risk in Health Impact Assessment: A Psychosocial Approach’,Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 37 (5), pp.382-396.

  4. A methodological strategy for using qualitative and quantitative methods to measure the mental health effects of public understanding of risk from industrial developments:
    Baldwin, C, Rawstorne, P and Cave, B (2019) ‘Measuring the impact of public understanding of risks from urban and industrial development on community psychosocial well-being: a mixed methods strategy’, International Journal of Community Wellbeing

  5. A community trial of Anderson’s Neighbourhood Flourishing Framework for measuring social well-being among volunteers participating in neighbourhood regeneration projects in Stoke-on-Trent:
    Baldwin, C, Vincent, P, Anderson, J and Rawstorne, P (2020) ‘Measuring Wellbeing: Community Trial of the Neighbourhood Thriving Scale for Social Wellbeing Among Pro-Social Individuals’, International Journal of Community Wellbeing 3, pp,361390.