The Impact of the Environment and Pollution on Cognitive Health
The cognitive benefits of lively, high compact neighbourhoods, rich in leisure and business destinations could be impacted by the negative by-products that are often associated with these types of environments (i.e., air and noise pollution). To properly understand how neighbourhood factors can affect , it is important to study all positive and negative influences of the environment across a wide range of locations. The EPOCH project began in 2020 with the aim to provide a deeper understanding into how built environments can support cognitive health and reduce 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 combine data on the neighbourhood built and natural environments (natural water features, distance to parks, greenness) and pollution (air pollution and noise) from six already existing cohorts to investigate the complex effects of various aspects of the neighbourhood environment on cognition in later life.
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework of the effects of the neighbourhood built environment on cognitive health in later life
By including a variety of neighbourhood built environment attriutes and characteristics, this study aims to provide a deeper understanding into how built environments can support cognitive health and reduce 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
This study will explore the total, indirect (mediated by other factors), and direct (independent of other factors) affects of the 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, as densification (increase in population) is the main driver of other environmental changes (Figure 1) it is important to understand its total (direct plus indirect) impact on cognitive health to inform regulatory urban planning policies.
It is also necessary to estimate the direct and indirect effects of densification on cognitive health to distinguish between its potentially beneficial and harmful effects and identify pathways that lessen the harmful effects, such as 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.
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