BY YANN TEAR
A higher proportion of people in central and west London suffer from mental health problems than anywhere else in the capital, according to a new survey – with the stresses of travel in the zone cited as a major factor.
he findings showed that Westminster is the London borough with the highest percentage of people aged 16 to 74 reporting a mental health condition – 21.5.
Not far behind was Kensington and Chelsea (20.9 per cent), Camden (20.8 per cent, and Hammersmith and Fulham (19.5 per cent).
The report, commissioned by London City Airport, linked mental health issues with the way people travel and their experience at stations, airports, and on roads, and suggested finding ways to improve these issues would play a significant role in improving mental wellbeing.
The London City Airport report Building Better: The Role of Transport Infrastructure and Services in Improving Mental Health, examines NHS data to assess the cost of mental health across London’s 32 boroughs.
Areas of central and west London have some of the highest rates of mental health issues in the country. In some areas of London, more than one in five adults report suffering from a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder and phobias.
The report found 30 per cent of commuters arriving at London’s railway stations in the morning peak were standing, which has an impact on happiness.
Asserting that the transport system is vital to people engaging in the activities that define their lives, the report highlights three key areas where improvements in transport services could make a tangible difference to mental health for millions of people:
- Better journeys: reducing delays, cancellations, antisocial behaviour and overcrowding, and keeping passengers well-informed when there is disruption.
- Better design: minimising noise, increasing natural light and making it easier to navigate around stations and airports are major factors contributing to people’s mental wellbeing
- Better accessibility and support: passengers with hidden disabilities, travellers with specific conditions such as Alzheimer’s, or those suffering from suicidal feelings, need tailored support which can be improved with staff training.
The study comes as London City Airport continues its own £500million redevelopment, due for completion in 2022, which will create four times more space in the terminal than today, with new facilities including check-in, departures area, baggage reclaim and security.
Robert Sinclair, chief executive of London City Airport, said: “Mental ill health is a complex issue with many contributing factors, but we commissioned this study to look at this national health problem through the lens we know best – transport. ~
“A good or bad experience while travelling, and the environments encountered, can have a profound impact on stress levels, particularly if there is unpredictability, perceived lack of control, delays or cancellations, closures or overcrowding.
“Likewise, poorly-designed stations or airports with little natural light or poor accessibility for people with mobility issues could increase stress and anxiety.”
London Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, said: “One in four Londoners will experience mental health problems during their lifetime, so improving their health and happiness is a priority for everyone who cares about the wellbeing of those living in our city.”
Gillian Connor, head of policy and partnerships at Rethink Mental Illness, a nationwide charity championing mental health causes, said: “Life can be stressful.
The increasing pressure on our transport infrastructure can leave many of us feel unnecessarily stressed as we try to navigate our busy lives.
Thoughtful approaches and small changes in our transport systems could make a huge difference.”
Workers in Victoria and Westminster are being invited to attend a series of wellbeing classes to mark Mental Health Awareness week, from May 13-19. The programme includes yoga, psychology lectures, advice on how to handle conflict, fitness classes, and the management of digital distractions. The business umbrella groups Victoria and Westminster BIDs are collaborating with local partners to offer the sessions.
A study by the mental health charity Mind has found that one in six UK workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. In the past year this has been said to cost the UK economy around £34.9bn.
See www.victoriabid.co.uk/events for details.
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