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Emerging Longitudinal Scholars: Mental wellbeing, ethnicity and gender

Join us for the final webinar in our 2024 Emerging Longitudinal Scholars (ELS) series focusing on mental wellbeing, ethnicity and gender. Speakers include Karen Arulsamy (National University of Singapore) and Mary Abed Al Ahad (University of St Andrews).

About the webinar series

Chaired by CLOSER Research Fellow, Dr Neil Kaye, our ELS webinar series provides a collaborative platform for fostering knowledge exchange and showcasing research by early career researchers using UK longitudinal population study data.  

We’ve curated a diverse programme of talks for this inaugural series. The range of topics covered will include: children’s development, healthy ageing, diet and health, employment and wellbeing in midlife, mental wellbeing, ethnicity and gender.   

Each showcase webinar will include two 20-minute presentations, with ample time dedicated to discussion and collaboration. 

About this webinar

The final webinar in our 2024 Emerging Longitudinal Scholars series will focus on mental wellbeing, ethnicity and gender with talks from Karen Arulsamy (National University of Singapore) and Mary Abed Al Ahad (University of St Andrews). 

Check out the presentation abstracts below for more information. 


The gendered impact of COVID-19 on health behaviours and mental health: Evidence from the UK
Karen Arulsamy (National University of Singapore) 

The purpose of this paper is to assess whether the COVID-19 pandemic affected the health behaviours of men and women differently, and to estimate whether the associations between health behaviours and mental health differed by gender. By employing nationally representative panel data from Understanding Society (N=40,734) and employing a difference-in-differences estimation strategy, we provide evidence that the pandemic worsened health behaviours among women in the UK. Compared to men, women were 3.2 percentage points less likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle and report 0.09 fewer healthy behaviours (corresponding to 7.0 per cent of a standard deviation) during the pandemic. Importantly, we find that the pandemic considerably weakened the protective effect of health behaviours on mental health for women but not for men. For women, adopting a healthy lifestyle was strongly correlated with mental health before the pandemic, but this relationship was no longer significant during the pandemic. This loss in significance corresponds to a 0.61-points decline in the GHQ-12 Likert score, equivalent to 10.5 per cent of a standard deviation. While the protective effect of health behaviours on mental health is stronger for women before the pandemic, it is stronger for men after the pandemic. Thus, the pandemic adversely impacted women not only in terms of changes in health behaviours but also in terms of lower psychological benefits derived from healthy behaviours. 


Is air pollution associated with poor mental well-being and how this association differs by ethnic sub-groups in the UK?
Mary Abed Al Ahad (University of St Andrews) 

Background: Recent studies suggest an association between ambient air pollution and mental well-being, though evidence is mostly fragmented and inconclusive and lacks in-depth analysis by population sub-groups such as ethnicity. In this study, we examine the association between air pollution and mental well-being in the overall population and by ethnicity and country of birth in the UK.  

Methods: We use data on 60,146 adult individuals (age:16+) with 349,748 repeated responses across 10 data collection waves (2009-2019) from the “Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study”. Then we link this individual-level data to annual concentrations of NO2, SO2, PM10, and PM2.5 air pollutants using the individuals’ place of residence, given at the local authority and at the finer Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) levels; allowing for analysis at two geographical scales across time. The association between air pollution and mental well-being (assessed through the general health questionnaire GHQ12) by ethnicity and being non-UK born is assessed using multilevel mixed-effects logit models. 

Results: Higher odds of poor mental well-being were observed with every 10µg/m3 increase in NO2, SO2, PM10 and PM2.5 pollutants at both LSOAs and local-authority levels. Decomposing air pollution into spatial-temporal (between-within) effects showed significant between, but not within effects; thus, residing in more polluted local-authorities/LSOAs have higher impact on poor mental well-being than the air pollution variation across time within each geographical area. Analysis by ethnicity revealed higher odds of poor mental well-being with increasing concentrations of SO2, PM10, and PM2.5 only for Pakistani/Bangladeshi, other-ethnicities and non-UK born individuals compared to British-white and UK-born individuals, but not for other ethnic groups.  

Conclusion: Using longitudinal individual-level and air pollution-linked data, this study supports an association between higher exposure to air pollution and poor mental well-being and highlights the higher effect of air pollution on the mental well-being of Pakistani/Bangladeshi and non-UK-born individuals. Environmental policies to reduce air pollution emissions can eventually improve the mental well-being of people in the UK. 

Accessing the webinar

This webinar will be delivered via MS Teams. Instructions for how to access the session will be sent to all registered attendees prior to the session. Please book your place via the webinar Eventbrite to ensure you receive the joining details. 

The session will be recorded and videos posted after the event has ended. 

Other webinars in this series

Registration is open for all upcoming sessions in our 2024 ELS webinar series:

Further information

If you have any questions, or require further information, please contact CLOSER Digital Communications and Events Manager, Jennie Blows (