Developing a network theory of addiction and depression in an urban population

Background of the research

Addiction and depression are the two most common mental disorders and also occur more frequently in an urban context. These disorders have a recurrent nature and are a great burden for those affected, and also impact society and significant others. Both conditions are often related to similar social and psychological risk factors, such as socioeconomic status and stressful life events, as well as to similar factors that may mitigate their potential onset or maintenance, such as increased physical activity or higher educational attainment.

Unfortunately, most studies focus on just one or a few risk factors separately. Yet these factors are highly correlated, and their interaction may be key to understanding how they contribute to depression and addiction. In addition, the disorders often co-occur, but little is known about how they affect each other and to what extent their co-occurrence is the result of an overlap in contributing factors. Another open question is whether the relationships between contributing factors and addiction and depression also differ between ethnic minority groups.

Research aims

In a collaboration of the Center for Urban Mental Health – University of Amsterdam, AmsterdamUMC, Department of Psychiatry location AMC and AIAR, Arkin/Jellinek, we use a complex systems approach to better understand the contributing factors in addiction and depression in an urban context (Amsterdam). Understanding how these factors interact could lead to more targeted interventions for addiction, depression and their comorbidities.

As depression and addiction are a complex system of interacting problems, we will formalize a network model of the two disorders. The network will be informed by measuring changes in the network over time and after interventions. Ethnicity will be of particular importance and will therefore be considered as an independent factor as we expect strong interactions between both risk factors, mitigating factors and ethnicity.