The associations between mental health and environmental factors in New Zealand: A region-based analytical study
Keywords:mental health, natural environmental factors, data analytics, statistical analysis, New Zealand, public mental status prediction
INTRODUCTION: Connections between environmental factors and mental health issues have been postulated in many different countries around the world. Previously undertaken research has shown many possible connections between these fields, especially in relation to air quality and extreme weather events. However, research on this subject is lacking in New Zealand, which is difficult to analyse as an overall nation due to its many micro-climates and regional differences.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study and subsequent analysis is to explore the associations between environmental factors and poor mental health outcomes in New Zealand by region and predict the number of people with mental health-related illnesses corresponding to the environmental influence.
METHODS: Data are collected from various public-available sources, e.g., Stats NZ and Coronial services of New Zealand, which comprised four environmental factors of our interest and two mental health indicators data ranging from 2016 up until 2020. The four environmental factors are air pollution, earthquakes, rainfall and temperature. Two mental health indicators include the number of people seen by District Health Boards (DHBs) for mental health reasons and the statistics on suicide deaths. The initial analysis is carried out on which regions were most affected by the chosen environmental factors. Further analysis using Auto-Regressive Integrated Moving Average(ARIMA) creates a model based on time series of environmental data to generate estimation for the next two years and mental health projected from the ridge regression.
RESULTS: In our initial analysis, the environmental data was graphed along with mental health outcomes in regional charts to identify possible associations. Different regions of New Zealand demonstrate quite different relationships between the environmental data and mental health outcomes. The result of later analysis predicts that the suicide rate and DHB mental health visits may increase in Wellington, drop-in Hawke's Bay and slightly increase in Canterbury for the year 2021 and 2022 with different environmental factors considered.
CONCLUSION: It is evident that the relationship between environmental and mental health factors is regional and not national due to the many micro-climates that exist around the nation. However, it was observed that not all factors displayed a good relationship between the regions. We conclude that our hypotheses were partially correct, in that increased air pollution was found to correlate to increased mental health-related DHB visits. Rainfall was also highly correlated to some mental health outcomes. Higher levels of rainfall reduced DHB visits and suicide rates in some areas of the country.
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