Accessibility of powerful computers and availability of so-called big data from a variety of sources means that data science approaches are becoming pervasive. However, their application in mental health research is often considered to be at an earlier stage than in other areas despite the complexity of mental health and illness making such a sophisticated approach particularly suitable. In this Perspective, we discuss current and potential applications of data science in mental health research using the UK Clinical Research Collaboration classification: underpinning research; aetiology; detection and diagnosis; treatment development; treatment evaluation; disease management; and health services research. We demonstrate that data science is already being widely applied in mental health research, but there is much more to be done now and in the future. The possibilities for data science in mental health research are substantial.

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The MQ Data Science group was set up by the UK mental health research charity MQ in 2015 and includes UK-based researchers from a range of disciplines working the field of mental health data science. The authors of this article are all members of the MQ Data Science group and the article stemmed from discussions at a previous meeting of the wider group. T.C.R. is a member of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre funded by Alzheimer Scotland. T.C.R. and A.M.M. are both members of the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, part of the cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (G0700704/ 84698). Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, and Medical Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. K.A.S.D., Z.I. and R.S. are part-funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. W.L. is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR CLAHRC South West Peninsula). A.M.M. has received funding from the Sackler Trust, the Wellcome Trust, and an MRC Mental Health Data Pathfinder award (MC_PC_17209). R.S. has received research funding in the last three years from Janssen, Roche and GSK. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute of Health Research, the Department of Health and Social Care, or any other funder. MQ sponsored the meetings from which this paper emerged. Other than one of the authors (E.W.) being employed by MQ, the charity had no role in the preparation of the manuscript and the final decision to publish was made by the corresponding author.

The MQ Data Science group:

Margaret Anderson16, Kate Aylett17, Suzy Bourke18, Anna Burhouse19, Felicity Callard20, Kathy Chapman21, Matt Cowley22, James Cusack23, Katrina A. S. Davis24, Jaime Delgadillo25, Sophie Dix6, Richard Dobson26, Gary Donohoe27, Nadine Dougall28, Johnny Downs26, Helen Fisher26,29, Amos Folarin8,26, Thomas Foley30, John Geddes31, Joardana Globerman22, Jonathan D. Hafferty2, Lamiece Hassan32, Joseph Hayes33, Helen Hodges34, Zina Ibrahim9, Becky Inkster11, Eddie Jacob22, Rowena Jacobs35, Ann John36, Cynthia Joyce6, Suky Kaur37, Maximilian Kerz26, James Kirkbride33, Gerard Leavey38, Glyn Lewis33, Keith Lloyd36, Wendy Matcham39, Margaret Maxwell40, Erin McCloskey6, Andrew M. McIntosh1,2, Andrew McQuillin33, Tamsin Newlove Delgado41, Catherine Newsome42, Kristin Nicodemus43, David Porteous43, Daniel Ray44, Tom C. Russ1,2,3,4,5, Simran Sanhu45, Daniel Smith46, Robert Stewart7, Laura Tutu6, Ayath Ullah47, Bill Vance32, Eva Woelbert6, Miranda Wolpert48, Cathy Wyse46 and Stanley Zammit49

Author information

Author notes

  1. A list of participants and their affiliations appears at the end of the paper.


  1. Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Tom C. Russ
    • , Andrew M. McIntosh
    • , Andrew M. McIntosh
    •  & Tom C. Russ
  2. Division of Psychiatry, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Tom C. Russ
    • , Jonathan D. Hafferty
    • , Andrew M. McIntosh
    • , Jonathan D. Hafferty
    • , Andrew M. McIntosh
    •  & Tom C. Russ
  3. Centre for Dementia Prevention, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Tom C. Russ
    •  & Tom C. Russ
  4. Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Tom C. Russ
    •  & Tom C. Russ
  5. Old Age Psychiatry, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, UK

    • Tom C. Russ
    •  & Tom C. Russ
  6. MQ: Transforming Mental Health, London, UK

    • Eva Woelbert
    • , Sophie Dix
    • , Cynthia Joyce
    • , Erin McCloskey
    • , Laura Tutu
    •  & Eva Woelbert
  7. Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK

    • Katrina A. S. Davis
    • , Ann John
    • , Rob Stewart
    •  & Robert Stewart
  8. South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

    • Katrina A. S. Davis
    • , Rob Stewart
    •  & Amos Folarin
  9. Department of Biostatistics and Health Informatics, King’s College London, London, UK

    • Zina Ibrahim
    •  & Zina Ibrahim
  10. The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, University College London, London, UK

    • Zina Ibrahim
  11. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

    • Becky Inkster
    •  & Becky Inkster
  12. Community and Primary Care Research Group, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK

    • William Lee
  13. Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Exeter, UK

    • William Lee
  14. University of Stirling, Stirling, UK

    • Margaret Maxwell
  15. Farr Scotland, Edinburgh, UK

    • Margaret Anderson
  16. Medical Research Council, London, UK

    • Kate Aylett
  17. Farr Manchester, Manchester, UK

    • Suzy Bourke
  18. West of England Academic Health Science Network, Bristol, UK

    • Anna Burhouse
  19. Durham University, Durham, UK

    • Felicity Callard
  20. MHILP, Barcelona, Spain

    • Kathy Chapman
  21. Innovation Arts, London, UK

    • Matt Cowley
    • , Joardana Globerman
    •  & Eddie Jacob
  22. Autistica, London, UK

    • James Cusack
  23. RCP National Guideline Centre, London, UK

    • Katrina A. S. Davis
  24. University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

    • Jaime Delgadillo
  25. King’s College London, London, UK

    • Richard Dobson
    • , Johnny Downs
    • , Helen Fisher
    • , Amos Folarin
    •  & Maximilian Kerz
  26. NUI Galway, Galway, UK

    • Gary Donohoe
  27. Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK

    • Nadine Dougall
  28. Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK

    • Helen Fisher
  29. Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

    • Thomas Foley
  30. Oxford University, Oxford, UK

    • John Geddes
  31. University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

    • Lamiece Hassan
    •  & Bill Vance
  32. University College London, London, UK

    • Joseph Hayes
    • , James Kirkbride
    • , Glyn Lewis
    •  & Andrew McQuillin
  33. Farr Wales, Cardiff, UK

    • Helen Hodges
  34. University of York, York, UK

    • Rowena Jacobs
  35. School of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, UK

    • Ann John
    •  & Keith Lloyd
  36. BACP, Lutterworth, UK

    • Suky Kaur
  37. Ulster University, Belfast, UK

    • Gerard Leavey
  38. ESRC, Swindon, UK

    • Wendy Matcham
  39. NMAHP Research Unit, Stirling, UK

    • Margaret Maxwell
  40. University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK

    • Tamsin Newlove Delgado
  41. Department for Education, London, UK

    • Catherine Newsome
  42. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Kristin Nicodemus
    •  & David Porteous
  43. HSCIC, Leeds, UK

    • Daniel Ray
  44. Public Health England, London, UK

    • Simran Sanhu
  45. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK

    • Daniel Smith
    •  & Cathy Wyse
  46. Farr Institute London, London, UK

    • Ayath Ullah
  47. Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, London, UK

    • Miranda Wolpert
  48. Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

    • Stanley Zammit


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  1. the MQ Data Science group


All authors drafted individual sections of the manuscript and revised it in its entirety for final content.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tom C. Russ.

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