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Research group Environment and Mental Health

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Stress and relaxation can affect our everyday life. The degrees of effect can vary from person to person and depending on the situation. Our team investigates the contextual modulation of physiological and psychological responses triggered by various environmental situations (e.g., global migration trends and a global pandemic).

An increased mental health burden has been observed among first- and second-generation migrants and refugee. The relative risk for psychotic disorders is not increased in all migrant populations, but rather in those with a visible minority status. A possible mechanism is increased exposure to and reduced protection from stress and aversive life events. Specific stresses for people in ethnic minority groups include cultural differences in verbal communication, experienced discrimination, institutionalized racism, perceived alienation, and isolation. For such mental health problems, social support may not overrule effects of local poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage. It highlights the real need to examine how multiple factors, such as social differences, cultural diversity and ethical standards, can influence mental health status and care and how these important issues can be addressed in cross-cultural and intercultural research.

We adopt a longitudinal approach enabling us to identify factors that contribute to psychological changes, and other negative impacts, caused by various environmental situations. Environmental factors can be classified individual, social-environmental, and physical-environmental circumstances that affect exposure to stressors. Examples of these factors associated with mental illness include psychosocial stress, trauma, socio-economic conditions and other factors which might have distinct or shared effects on mental health across countries and in different national and/or ethnic groups, gender identities and urban/rural residences.

Together with our research partners in China, Europe and the United States, we work on projects that achieve mental health indicators within sustainable development goals.


Prof. Dr. Shuyan Liu

Professorship in Global Mental Health (Charité – China Focus); Head of research division Population Neuroscience (PONS) and research group Environment and Mental Health

Selected publications