Living environment and its relationship to depressive mood: A systematic review

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2018 Feb;64(1):92-103. doi: 10.1177/0020764017744582. Epub 2017 Dec 6.


Background and aims: The notion that environment affects mental health has a long history; in this systematic review, we aimed to study whether the living environment is related to depressive mood.

Methods: We searched databases of PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science for population-based original studies prior to October 2016. We included studies that measured depressive symptoms or depression and had measures of urbanization, population density, aesthetics of living environment, house/built environment, green areas, walkability, noise, air pollution or services.

Results: Out of 1,578 articles found, 44 studies met our inclusion criteria. Manual searches of the references yielded 13 articles, resulting in 57 articles being included in the systematic review. Most of the studies showed statistically significant associations with at least one of the characteristics of living environment and depressive mood. House and built environment with, for example, poor housing quality and non-functioning, lack of green areas, noise and air pollution were more clearly related to depressive mood even after adjustment for different individual characteristics. On the contrary, the results in relation to population density, aesthetics and walkability of living environment, and availability of services and depressive mood were more inconsistent.

Conclusion: Adverse house/built environment, including poor housing quality and non-functioning, lack of green spaces, noise and air pollution are related to depressive mood and should be taken into account during planning in order to prevent depressive mood.

Keywords: Depression; depressive symptoms; living environment; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Environment*
  • Housing / standards*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Residence Characteristics*