Linking physical and social environments with mental health in old age: A multisensor approach for continuous real-life ecological and emotional assessment

Amanda Fernandes, Frank J. Van Lenthe, Julie Vallée, Cedric Sueur, Basile Chaix*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Background Urban stress is mentioned as a plausible mechanism leading to chronic stress, which is a risk factor of depression. Yet, an accurate assessment of urban stressors in environmental epidemiology requires new methods. This article discusses methods for the sensor-based continuous assesment of geographic environments, stress and depressive symptoms in older age. We report protocols of the promoting mental well-being and healthy ageing in cities (MINDMAP) and Healthy Aging and Networks in Cities (HANC) studies nested in the RECORD Cohort as a background for a broad discussion about the theoretical foundation and monitoring tools of mobile sensing research in older age. Specifically, these studies allow one to compare how older people with and without depression perceive, navigate and use their environment; and how the built environments, networks of social contacts, and spatial mobility patterns influence the mental health of older people. Methods Our research protocol combines (1) Global Positioning System (GPS) and accelerometer tracking and a GPS-based mobility survey to assess participants' mobility patterns, activity patterns and environmental exposures; (2) proximity detection to assess whether household members are close to each other; (3) ecological momentary assessment to track momentary mood and stress and environmental perceptions; and (4) electrodermal activity for the tentative prediction of stress. Data will be compared within individuals (at different times) and between persons with and without depressive symptoms. Conclusion The development of mobile sensing and survey technologies opens an avenue to improve understanding of the role of momentary stressors and resourcing features of residential and non-residential environments for older populations' mental health. However, validation, privacy and ethical aspects are important issues to consider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-483
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding MINDMAP is funded by the European Commission HORIZON 2020 research and innovation action 667661. HANC is funded by a grant from the French National Research Agency (ANR-15-CE36-0005). Competing interests None declared. Patient consent for publication Not required.

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