Identifying future study designs for mental health and social wellbeing associated with diets of a cohort living in eco-regions: Findings from the INSUM expert workshop

Friederike Elsner, Lea Ellen Matthiessen, Dominika Średnicka-Tober, Wolfgang Marx, Adrienne O’Neil, Ailsa A. Welch, Richard Peter Hayhoe, Suzanne Higgs, Marja van Vliet, Ephimia Morphew-Lu, Renata Kazimierczak, Rita Góralska-Walczak, Klaudia Kopczyńska, Thea Steenbuch Krabbe Bruun, Beatriz Philippi Rosane, Susanne Gjedsted Bügel, Carola Strassner

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Diets influence our mental health and social wellbeing (MHSW) in multiple ways. A rising community concept, Eco-Regions, has gained interest. The research project “Indicators for assessment of health effects of consumption of sustainable, organic school meals in Ecoregions” (INSUM) aims to develop future-oriented research approaches to measure the potential health effects of more sustainable and healthy diets. This first part of the project focuses on MHSW with the goal to identify suitable study designs and indicators. The methodology is based on a 2-day workshop with an interdisciplinary group of experts. This paper describes commonly applied research methods on the nexus between diet and MHSW as presented by the experts and summarises key points from the discussions. The results show that the dominating tool to investigate MSHW is questionnaires. Questionnaires vary largely depending on the research design, such as participants or distribution channels. Cohort studies addressing families and including in-depth interventional and/or experimental studies may be suitable for an Eco-Region investigation. Those MHSW studies can be conducted and combined with measurements of somatic health effects. We conclude that indicators should be seen as complementary rather than independent. Explorative research designs are required to investigate complex Eco-Regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number669
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


  • Eco-Regions
  • mental and social health
  • sustainable and healthy diet
  • sustainable food systems
  • wellbeing

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