Complex Systems Approaches to Understand Drivers of Mental Health and Inform Mental Health Policy: A Systematic Review

  • Brent A. LangellierEmail author
  • Yong Yang
  • Jonathan Purtle
  • Katherine L. Nelson
  • Ivana Stankov
  • Ana V. Diez Roux
Original Article


We conducted a systematic review of studies employing complex systems approaches (i.e., agent based and system dynamics models) to understand drivers of mental health and inform mental health policy. We extracted key data (e.g., purpose, design, data) for each study and provide a narrative synthesis of insights generated across studies. The studies investigated drivers and policy intervention strategies across a diversity of mental health outcomes. Based on these studies and the extant literature, we propose a typology of mental health research and policy areas that may benefit from complex systems approaches.


Mental health Public policy Complex systems Systems science Systematic review 



Horizon 2020 Framework Programme [Grant Number 667661]. This study was supported by the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme [Grant Number 667661] (Promoting mental wellbeing in the ageing population—MINDMAP). The study does not necessarily reflect the Commission’s views and in no way anticipates the Commission’s future policy in this area.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human and Animal Participants

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brent A. Langellier
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Yong Yang
    • 2
  • Jonathan Purtle
    • 1
  • Katherine L. Nelson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ivana Stankov
    • 3
  • Ana V. Diez Roux
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Health Management and Policy, Dornsife School of Public HealthDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Social and Behavioral Science, School of Public HealthThe University of MemphisMemphisUSA
  3. 3.Urban Health Collaborative, Dornsife School of Public HealthDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Dornsife School of Public HealthDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  5. 5.PhiladelphiaUSA

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