Margarita Triguero-Mas

Natural spaces and mental health, research for equity and integration

To Margarita Triguero-Mas, PhD in Public Health from Pompeu Fabra University, researcher at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, and researcher associated with ISGlobal and the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability, nature and ecology inhabit an intimate fiber.

From the children’s TV shows she preferred, to the career she chose, the trips she took and the research she engaged in, she is committed to mental health and nature for equity and integration of people. Appealing to the empowerment of the social actors of health and natural spaces.

« The truth is that I think my connection to nature comes from contact with pets and television. As a little girl I loved spending time at my maternal grandparents’ house so I could play with the dogs and cats they had. I think that’s why I was fascinated by a cartoon series which was set in the near future where there was only one koala left. I think it was from this that I became fascinated by conservation and, later, with programs which focused on everyday environmentalism.

« I grew up 60km from the city of Barcelona, in a village wedged between the Montseny and the Riglos de Bertí. As a child, while my father renovated houses and my mother sewed, I spent afternoons with my grandparents. I would go with my grandmother to visit her friends, walking along the traditional paths that link the village farmhouses and drinking water from the fountains hidden along the way. I would spend time with my grandfather among cows, pigs, rabbits… and I would go with him and his horse to the fields to plant potatoes. I would go to water the garden with my other grandparents and choose which carrot was going to be my snack, trying to perfect my strategy every day to choose the tastiest carrot ».

The green way

« I was particularly enthusiastic about all the subjects of rural and urban planning in my Environmental Science degree. And I finished my degree doing a research project in India on the perceptions of the local population of a protected natural area.

« Just after finishing my degree I started working in Cat. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen’s team as a research assistant at the Environmental Epidemiology Research Center in Barcelona and I loved the working environment and the potential to bring about changes in environmental policies by pointing out the relationship between health and environment. »

« So, I decided to specialize by doing a master’s degree in Public Health and a PhD in Biomedicine that focused on the relationship between natural spaces and health from an environmental epidemiology approach. During this time I worked to promote healthy and green cities.

« When I was finishing my PhD I attended a seminar by ICREA researcher Isabelle Anguelovski. During the seminar Cat.Anguelovski explained how natural spaces could be interlinked with gentrification processes and thus harm the health of the most deprived population. So I became interested in the issues of health equity and environmental justice and, together with Cat.Isabelle Anguelovski and Dr.Helen Cole from the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability of ICTA-UAB, I worked to promote healthy, green and fair cities ».

Precious experiences

« More recently, thanks to Dr.Cristina O’Callaghan Gordo, I have come into contact with the concept of planetary health and have joined the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya to work to promote healthy, green and just cities to advance planetary health.

« I am excited to be able to go beyond the concept of environmental public health and to be able to conceptualize that the health of humans depends on the health of the planet. It seems to me that only then do we have any chance of remedying the environmental and ecological crisis we are in and being able to achieve a livable future for humans.

« While I was studying for my master’s degree and doing my PhD I had the highest and most sustained peaks of stress. At that time I found that contemplating the sea was the best tool to reduce my own stress, so possibly experiencing that on my own skin was what continues to move me to this day. »

Topics at the I Global Summit Science, Nature and Health 

« We will talk about what we know about natural spaces and mental health and why it is important to focus on health equity and the integration of different types of contact with nature.

« GreenME is a 4-year, 19-partner European Commission (Horizon Europe) funded Project. The project aims to improve mental health equity in Europe through diagnosis, increased scientific knowledge and empowerment of nature and health actors. The project is coordinated by Dr. Helen Cole and myself and will start in September 2023. »

Ph: Courtesy Margarita Triguero-Mas


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