Nature and mental illness: the psychological impacts of human-wildlife conflict in western Uganda


Period: September 2017 – December 2021

Funder: Natural Environment Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership

DPhil Overview: My PhD focuses on links between conservation and human health, particularly mental health.

Outline of research: Humans and wildlife share many of the same spaces. This can bring people and animals into contact in many ways. The direct consequences of this contact – like crop raiding by elephants – are well recognised. However, much less attention has been paid to indirect impacts, such as the psychological consequences of living alongside wildlife.

tomObjectives: My research will explore how human-primate interactions influence peoples’ mental health through several mechanisms. This will help illustrate unexplored effects of environmental protection on people and guide efforts for more fair and successful conservation. Furthermore, the growing Planetary Health movement seeks to understand how environmental change affects human health. Much of the research in this area has focused on physiological disease, neglecting other aspects such as mental and subjectively experienced health. Understanding how ecosystems interact with mental and subjective aspects of health may help support a more holistic approach towards planetary health.

Summary of planned activities: This research is planned around Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda. There is significant overlap between human settlement and primate habitats around Budongo. Crop raiding brings primates into close proximity to people.

I will use a range of methods in this project. These will include in-depth interviews to understand subjective experiences of health, and qualitative approaches to explore changing mental health risks between groups.

Visit Tom's profile page here

Find out more about Tom's study into mental health in the conservation community here