The Impact of the Environment and Pollution on Cognitive Health (EPOCH)
Lively, highly compact neighborhoods with leisure and business destinations may offer cognitive benefits. However, this potential is threatened by associated negative by-products like air and noise pollution. Studying a broad range of locations is crucial for comprehensively understanding how neighborhood factors, both positive and negative, can impact cognitive health.
Launched in 2020, the EPOCH project aims to explore how built environments can support cognitive health and mitigate the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. It will examine data from a large range of geographical locations in Australia and the UK.
The project will merge data on neighborhood built and natural environments, including natural water features, park proximity, and greenness, along with pollution (air and noise). This comprehensive approach, utilizing six existing cohorts, aims to explore the intricate effects of neighborhood environments on cognition in later life.
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework of the effects of the neighbourhood built environment on cognitive health in later life
This study aims to enhance understanding by incorporating diverse neighborhood built environment attributes. The focus is on how these environments can support cognitive health and diminish the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
This project inlcudes several pre-existing studies involving older populations from Australia and the UK.
1. Procedures will be developed that will allow the synthesis of environmental data across ageing populations
2. The total, indirect (affected by other factors), and direct (independent of other factors) affects of environmental factors on cognitive health in later life (Figure 1) will be assessed to determine their beneficial and harmful impacts.
3. Results from different studies will be integrated using a program that synthesis the data.
Benefits for society and cognitive health
This study will explore the total, indirect (mediated by other factors), and direct (independent of other factors) effects of environmental factors on changes in cognitive health. This information is important as it can help identify pathways for prevention that may help lessen the negative effects of the environment and has several policy implications.
For example, densification (population increase) is a key driver of environmental changes (Figure 1). Therefore, it is important to understand its total (direct plus indirect) impact on cognitive health to inform regulatory urban planning policies.
Estimating both direct and indirect effects of densification on cognitive health is crucial. This helps identify and distinguish between potential beneficial and harmful effects and identify pathways that lessen the harmful effects. For example, transportation policies that reduce air and noise pollution by limiting motorized traffic in residential areas.
The EPOCH Research Project is funded by the 2019 UKRI-NHMRC Built Environment Prevention Research Scheme.
For more details on methodology download our PDF