The overall aim of the MINDMAP project is to identify the opportunities offered by the urban environment for the promotion of mental wellbeing and cognitive function of older individuals in Europe. To achieve this, the project will advance understanding by bringing together longitudinal studies across cities in Europe, the US and Canada to unravel the causal pathways and multi-level interactions between the urban environment and the individual determinants of mental wellbeing in older age. The project will examine the causes of variation in mental wellbeing and disorders in old age both within as well as between cities and identify national and urban policies for the prevention and early diagnosis of mental conditions and disorders of older people. This knowledge will contribute to the establishment of preventive strategies in urban settings to promote the mental dimension of healthy ageing, reduce the negative impact of mental disorders on co-morbidities and preserve cognitive function in old age. The specific objectives of MINDMAP are:

  1. To assess the impact of the urban environment on the mental wellbeing and disorders associated with ageing, and estimate the extent to which exposure to specific urban environmental factors and policies explain differences in ageing-related mental and cognitive disorders both within as well as between European cities. The project will assemble and harmonize data from 10 ongoing longitudinal ageing studies across more than 16 cities in Europe, Canada and the United States. This will be complemented by registry data on mortality and hospital discharge, as well as international longitudinal surveys of ageing.
  2. To assess the causal pathways and interactions between the urban environment and the individual determinants of mental health and cognitive ageing in older adults. We will test the hypothesis that mental health and cognitive capacity in old age are shaped by the interaction between specific characteristics of the urban environment and social, biological, behavioural, and psychosocial characteristics. Our study will also asses the interaction between the urban environment and the genetic make-up.
  3. To use agent-based modelling to simulate the effect of prevention and early identification policies specific to urban environments on the trajectories of mental health and cognitive ageing across cities in Europe. Integrating findings from the first two aims into a novel agent-based model, we will use a systems approach to simulate the potential impact of multiple policy and intervention scenarios on the mental and cognitive wellbeing of older populations in European cities.

To achieve these aims, we adopt an interdisciplinary approach that integrates insights and methodological approaches from mental health and psychiatry, biology, epidemiology, epigenetics, geriatrics, geography and social sciences. To achieve impact, we model the impact of concrete features of the urban environment, policies and interventions on common mental health disorders in European cities. We involve a wide number of stakeholders at the regional, national and European level to translate knowledge into practice. A major legacy of the project will be a research infrastructure of harmonized international urban cohort studies of ageing and mental health. This infrastructure will advance the study of the interactions between contextual exposures in the urban environment and individual determinants of mental health and cognitive ageing within and beyond the MINDAP project.