About M3-São Paulo

Mental Health, Migration and the Megacity logo
This project is part of a programme of work initiated by Professor Nik Rose, with a development grant from the ESRC, 2013-15, to examine the relationship between urban living and mental health. Based upon the literature and discussions of that development work on the “urban brain”, the programme aims to undertake empirical work in mental health and mega-cities in China, India and Brazil. We now have funding to undertake our first data collection in Shanghai. The current programme, then, is a further step to developing the programme into Brazil, and to developing the capacity to undertake initial pilot work. According to the research from Metropolis Study Center (2015), the urbanization in São Paulo presents an especially compelling case. In 1960, the metropolitan area of São Paulo had 4.8 million inhabitants and in fifty years it has increased to nearly 20 million. In five decades São Paulo had an increase equivalent to two times the population of London. The urbanization presents many opportunities for those who move – with material gains, cultural freedom and the opportunity to build dexterous, resilient lives on the margins of major cities. Nonetheless, urbanization can come at a high price of stress, dislocation, social defeat, and family dispersion, frequently resulting in elevated rates of illness, especially mental illness. Concerns about this burden of mental disorders have grown worldwide as well as its association with urbanicity, however little is known about the extent of these issues in the rapidly-expanding megacities in developing countries such as Brazil. Since world population growth is projected to be concentrated in megacities, with increases in social inequality and urbanization-associated stress, there is an urgent need to improve our understanding about these relationships with mental health in order to develop adequate interventions and health policies.

‘Mental Life, Migration and the Megacity’ is founded on three premises: (1) that understanding of the relationship between urban life and mental health requires a new kind of relationship between qualitative social science, the epidemiological and psychiatric sciences; (2) that this research, if it is to be meaningful in the 21st century, must forge new links between citizens and scholars in emerging mega-cities; (3) that it must forge those links through close-up qualitative attention to the daily lives of migrants, including attention to the governmental and bureaucratic institutions through which those lives take shape. The project is composed of three working packages (WP): WP1) Understanding migrants’ mental health in São Paulo through a systematic review and synthesis of literature; WP2) Developing a nuanced understanding of São Paulo’s migrants, following the research design of the Newton project in Shanghai. This design focusses on daily life experience and how it relates to mental health issues, using a pilot study of ethnographic field work in São Paulo; WP3) Promoting group meetings between researchers from São Paulo and London, including a site visit of São Paulo researchers to the King’s College Newton project in Shanghai.