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Life course of place: A longitudinal study of mental health and place

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-572
Number of pages18
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number4
Early online date2 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018


A multitude of studies have demonstrated that individual circumstances throughout life influence subsequent health and well-being outcomes. The life-course perspective emphasises that health is affected by the accumulation of social and economic (dis)advantages over an individual’s life but, importantly, also that there can also be critical periods where the effects of exposure can be greater. Yet few researchers have applied a life-course perspective to the study of health and place, which has resulted in a partial understanding of the dynamics of person-health-place relations. By explicitly recognising that places are spatial-temporal products, and applying a novel longitudinal life-course approach, this study examines the opportunities for incorporating aspects of place into a life course framework. The focus is the influence of neighbourhood social deprivation and provision of local green space on mental health (particularly anxiety and depression). Historical and contemporary place-based information from the Lothian region of Scotland are combined with data from a cohort of individuals born in 1936 (the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936) to consider the influence of these environmental factors over the life course on mental health outcomes later in life. The results establish the utility of the life course of place approach, and demonstrate how this concept can be operationalised using historical data sources. The findings suggest that, after adjustment, residing in the most socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods in childhood was detrimental to mental health outcomes at age 70. Further, green space provision in early life environments is related to mental health outcomes in later life, but any effect may be restricted to those residing in socially disadvantaged places, and dependent on the specific mental health outcome being considered. The findings emphasise the potential of the life course of place approach for enhancing the evidence base considering the relationships between health and place.

    Research areas

  • green space, life course, longitudinal, menta health

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