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Health and mental health

Physical and mental health are influenced by a combination of genes and environment. The research at the BSI within this theme aims to encourage behaviours that lead to a healthier lifestyle and a feeling of well-being on the one hand, and treatment of mental disorders on the other. We investigate both internalising and externalising psychopathologies, such as anxiety, depression, burnout, ADHD, addictive behaviours (smoking, alcohol, drugs) and eating disorders. Promotion of health and well-being involves looking at food choice, self-control, coping strategies, need satisfaction, mindfulness, sport and exercise, work-life balance, sleep and recovery.

Investigating genes, neurobiological processes, behaviour and environment

We look at people’s entire lifespan: from infancy, childhood, adolescence to middle and old age. Genes, neurobiological processes, behaviour and environment are all taken into account. Our studies, therefore, do not only take place in a clinical setting, but also in families, schools and at work.

At the BSI, we often use a multi-method approach in our search for answers. Techniques used include surveys, observations, biological and physiological measures, while interventions include cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive bias modification, educational methods and media campaigns. We develop both preventive and curative interventions, which are first tested in pilot studies and later in randomised controlled trials.

Contribution to society

The media regularly covers our research and we give policy advice. Among others, our research has led to:

  • The development of computer training programs for alcohol addiction, depression and anxiety.
  • The implementation of educational methods and media campaigns that promote healthy behaviours and discourage smoking and drinking.
  • A change in the minimum drinking age in the Netherlands.
  • The training of (mental) healthcare professionals, youth healthcare professionals and occupational physicians.

Currently, we are looking at new technologies like a buzzing fork for healthy eating behaviour, the influence of social media, and diagnosis and intervention via apps or wearables.

Because we study psychopathology, health and well-being from early infancy to the ageing population, we work together with a wide range of organisations like academic hospitals, youth care institutions, TNO, the Dutch Olympic Committee, the Trimbos Institute, and clinical institutions like the Pompe Clinic, the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care and Pro Persona.