To understand the entire spectrum of mental health, the Mental Health research program (MH) examines the development of (chronic) mental disorders, but also encompasses research on the determinants of mental well-being and good quality of life.

Information about internships can be found on our BSc/MSc page.

Program support: Anouk Weverling

To completely understand the causes and consequences of mental health problems, a multidisciplinary approach is needed

Mission and goals

It is undisputed that there is no health without mental health, encompassing the wide spectrum from mental well-being to severe mental illness. Mental disorders, such as depressive disorders, anxiety, and alcohol use disorders are common in the general population; they rank among the conditions with the largest disease burden worldwide. Other, less common disorders, such as psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder and OCD have enormous impact on the lives of those afflicted. Overall, life-time prevalence rates of mental disorders are very high, at 40-50% in most places in the world. Mental health conditions impact not only on individuals’ wellbeing and quality of life, but also their somatic health, healthcare utilization and daily (work) functioning. Therefore, these conditions have a profound impact on society as a whole.

Mental health conditions are considered complex diseases, with multiple risk factors involved in their etiology: genetics, psychosocial and environmental stressors, brain abnormalities, personality and coping strategies and somatic conditions. Consequently, to more completely understand the causes and consequences of mental health problems, a multidisciplinary approach is needed.

To understand the entire spectrum of mental health, the Mental Health research program will in addition to examining the development of (chronic) mental disorders, also encompass mental well-being and quality of life. Such a wide focus will provide insight into resilience factors that prevent mental ill-health, and will provide us with new keys for preventive strategies of mental health problems. A strong focus in our research program will also be on the development of better interventions to improve health among those with mental health problems. It is well known that the currently available treatments work, but not for all. Developing personalized medicine approaches, in which we better target existing or new treatments based on patient profiles, is an important focus for the next decade of mental health research.

Introduction video for members of APH Mental Health

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APH Mental Health Research Agenda 2024

Program leaders

Research themes

Etiology, development and consequences of mental health

This theme includes epidemiological, observational research either in the community setting, the general practice setting and/or the psychiatric care setting. We have a rich source of large-scale community and/or patient cohorts covering the entire lifespan. The objectives are to investigate: (1) genetic, clinical, psychosocial and environmental factors that contribute to mental well-being and the development of mental disorders; (2) the chronicity, staging and profiling of disorders; and (3) the impact of mental disorders on the individual patient, the patient’s social environment as well as the society at large.

Prevention and treatment of mental health problems

This theme encompasses research that contributes to evidence-based information on innovative prevention and treatment interventions to improve mental health and reduce associated disability. This research line also uses insights from observational studies, but will mainly provide new insights through the conduct of various intervention studies (RCT’s). These intervention studies are applied in the general population, primary care, mental healthcare and somatic healthcare settings.

Soma & Psyche

This theme aims to facilitate research on the interface between mental health and somatic disease. Mental disorders are highly prevalent in patients with somatic diseases and psychiatric patients frequently have or develop coexisting somatic diseases. The studies investigate (1) mental health, mental disorders and quality of life in persons with various somatic diseases; (2) (underlying reasons for) increased somatic health problems in persons with psychiatric disorders; (3) specific conditions at the interface of soma & psyche such as chronic pain and somatoform symptoms and disorders; and (4) effects of specific intervention programs targeting combined somatic and mental health problems.

Program council

The program leaders of the Mental Health research program chair the MH Program Council. This program council consist of a selection of senior researchers of the research program who meet regularly to implement or update the research program-specific strategy and to discuss anticipatory or reactive response to external events.

Program council members
Claudi Bockting Brenda Penninx
Anja Lok Aartjan Beekman
Lotte Haverman Marit Sijbrandij
Patricia van Oppen Arnoud Verhoeff
Marije Verhage Ruth van Holst

Junior council

The Mental Health research program has installed a MH Junior Council that provides program leaders with solicited and unsolicited advice and helps them with the organization of research program-specific activities or events.

Junior council members
Dhini Andriani Ricki de Koning
Tessa van Gastel Eline Meuleman
Mariana Nery

Research program members