Early Environmental quality and life-course mental health effects

EQUAL-LIFE will develop and test combined exposure data using a novel approach to multi-modal exposures and their impact on children’s mental health and development.  The project has started in January 2020 and will run until 31 December 2024. 

A combination of birth-cohort data with new sources of data will provide insight into aspects of physical and social exposures hitherto untapped. It will do this at different scale levels and timeframes while accounting for the distribution of exposures in social groups based on gender, ethnicity, and social vulnerability. 
Beginning with child development and mental health, a set of theory-based questions is formulated, and a wide range of relevant environmental and social hazards is defined and validated at the stakeholders' end.

Exposure assessment combines traditional GIS-based approaches with omics approaches and new sources of data that could explain aspects of the urban environment at a higher spatial and temporal granularity, and provide insight into untapped parameters relating to exposure (spatial quality of neighbourhoods). These together form the early-life exposome. Statistical tools integrate data at different scale levels and times and combine e.g. machine learning and causal models with subgroups measures. 

EQUAL-LIFE uses data from birth-cohorts, longitudinal school data sets and cross-sectional studies (N=>250.000), including data on exposures, biomarkers, mental health and developmental outcomes, in their social context. EQUAL-LIFE contributes to the development/utilisation of the exposome concept by:

  1. integrating the internal, external and social exposome
  2. studying a distinct set of effects on a child’s development and mental health
  3. characterising/measuring/modelling the child’s environment at different stages and activity spaces
  4. looking at supportive environments for child development, rather than merely pollutants
  5. combining physical, and social indicators with novel biomarkers and using new data sources describing child activity patterns and environments.


The Equal-Life project comprises 20 partners from 11 European countries. 

RIVM role

RIVM is the coordinator of the Equal-Life project.  Our colleague Irene van Kamp is involved in the project.


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874724.