Expanding the environmental scope: an environment-wide association study for mental well-being

Margot P. van de Weijer, Bart M. L. Baselmans, Jouke-Jan Hottenga, Conor V. Dolan, Gonneke Willemsen, Meike Bartels

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Identifying modifiable factors associated with well-being is of increased interest for public policy guidance. Developments in record linkage make it possible to identify what contributes to well-being from a myriad of factors. To this end, we link two large-scale data resources; the Geoscience and Health Cohort Consortium, a collection of geo-data, and the Netherlands Twin Register, which holds population-based well-being data.

We perform an Environment-Wide Association Study (EnWAS), where we examine 139 neighbourhood-level environmental exposures in relation to well-being.

First, we performed a generalized estimation equation regression (N = 11,975) to test for the effects of environmental exposures on well-being. Second, to account for multicollinearity amongst exposures, we performed principal component regression. Finally, using a genetically informative design, we examined whether environmental exposure is driven by genetic predisposition for well-being.

We identified 21 environmental factors that were associated with well-being in the domains: housing stock, income, core neighbourhood characteristics, livability, and socioeconomic status. Of these associations, socioeconomic status and safety are indicated as the most important factors to explain differences in well-being. No evidence of gene-environment correlation was found.

These observed associations, especially neighbourhood safety, could be informative for policy makers and provide public policy guidance to improve well-being. Our results show that linking databases is a fruitful exercise to identify determinants of mental health that would remain unknown by a more unilateral approach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Pages (from-to)195-204
JournalJournal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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