Psychological Contributions to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Psychology is the study of the mind and of human behavior. As a discipline, psychology embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the biological bases of behavior, to political negotiations, to learning and cognition, to care for the aging, and much more. Accordingly, psychological science has identified solutions to many of the challenges associated with progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they relate to improving the human condition.

The leadership of the American Psychological Association (APA) is gratified that psychological science and practice are contributing to the work of the United Nations (UN). APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with a membership of more than 146,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students. APA has more than 16,000 members outside of the United States, Memoranda of Understanding with more than 65 psychological associations around the world, and serves as Secretariat for the Global Psychology Alliance. APA’s mission is to promote the advancement, communication, and application of psychological science and knowledge to benefit society and improve lives. APA applies psychology for positive impact on critical societal issues. This is accomplished by increasing the influence of psychological science and applications on both global policy decisions and the advancement of human rights, fairness, diversity, and inclusion.

Since 2000, APA has been an accredited Nongovernmental Organization at the UN. APA holds special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and is affiliated with the Department of Global Communications. Research findings from psychology directly inform policy and program recommendations within the UN community, including Member States, the Secretariat, Programs, Funds, and Specialized Agencies.

The SDGs were adopted by all 193 Member States in 2015 as a blueprint for human progress in the 21st century. As the Global Agenda of the UN, the SDGs were envisioned to be a living force which would include key metrics associated with social, economic, and environmental advancements within and among countries by 2030. Envisioning how to improve the lives of everyone everywhere requires an understanding of how human behavior, policy, and environmental factors contribute to progress, as well as how lives are affected when efforts fall short. Today, many psychologists are committed to advocating for the SDGs by applying psychological science to advance peace, prosperity, and well-being worldwide.

This booklet represents a sampling of psychological science’s value in pursuing the achievement of the 2030 Global Agenda. While we recognize the interrelatedness of the 17 global goals, we illustrate here how psychological research and strategies can contribute to and guide progress on nine of the SDGs. In doing so, we are deepening our determination to engage in global partnerships for the realization of the SDGs and to our shared vision for creating the world we want. If we can provide any further details or connect you to experts who work on any of the topics described, please do not hesitate to contact


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