Health Psychology

Exercising in the park

Research on Health Psychology in the School of Psychology is concerned with understanding people’s emotions, cognitions and behaviours in maintaining health, adapting to ill-health and coping with or managing long-term conditions.

The sort of research questions that we aim to answer include:

  • What social and psychological factors affect physical and psychological outcomes?
  • Why do some people delay seeking help for symptoms and what impact does delay have on health outcomes?
  • What indefinitely maintainable changes in eating and exercise patterns are most effective in producing a reduction in weight?
  • How can psychological constructs help us to understand adjustment to the common but difficult hurdles old age can bring (e.g. dementia, bereavement and life threatening illness)?
  • What are the psychosocial factors (including the ways people make sense of their situation, the coping strategies that people use and their expectations of themselves) that contribute to ill-being or well-being in these situations?
  • How do the perceptions and ways of coping of different family members (and care staff) impact upon individuals in a family (or care system) and their relationships, when they are living with illness or loss?
  • How do cultural values and beliefs impact upon individuals and families as they struggle to make sense of living with illness or loss?
  • How can we design and provide services which are acceptable and accessible to the people who need them?

We use a range of methodologies in order to answer these questions, including questionnaires, in-depth interviews and cognitive interviewing, measurement of stress responses, real-time causal analysis, ultra sound, neuropsychological testing, brain imaging, psychophysiology and Experience-Based Design.

We are a multi-disciplinary group within the School and work with colleagues across academic fields including Medicine, Dentistry, Geography, Sports & Exercise Science and Engineering.

In addition, we have strong collaborations with academic partners at other Universities including King’s College London, University College London, University of Leeds, Institute of Education (London), University of Auckland, University of Bangor, University of Illinois at Chicago (USA), University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Tuebingen University (Germany) and University of Allahabad (India).

We also have strong links with several clinical services such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (including the Cancer Centre and Rheumatology), Selly Oak Hospital, Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham Women’s Hospital, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh.

How is our research funded?

We receive funding for our research from a variety of sources including The European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, Cancer Research UK, NHS Trusts, The Prostate Cancer Charity, The British Academy, Coeliac UK, NIHR and the ERSC.

In addition, a generous donation (by Mr Grenville Green as a memorial to his late wife, Hilary Green) for research into the psychology of empathy and cooperativeness has established a perpetual income to be spent on research staff, students, lectures or conferences.

What do we do with our research findings?

We make the results of our research available to practitioners, researchers, trainers, teachers and the general public through talks at seminars and conferences and over radio and TV, articles in newspapers and magazines, handbooks, DVDs, websites and peer-reviewed publications in research journals.

Ruth Howard and colleagues are continuing to develop their research into the psychosocial impact of coeliac disease across the lifespan. In addition to Gut Feelings, their DVD resource for young people with coeliac disease, funded by the ESRC, which is available on Amazon, they will shortly be launching a new psycho-educational DVD to support parents with a child with coeliac disease.

In addition, Jan Oyebode and colleagues have recently published a well-being scale for use in the NHS and other clinical settings (Papadopoulos A, Oyebode J, Kelly, A. Backmark-Goodwill, H. Halloran, L. (2011). The Well-Being Evaluation Scale (WES). Pearson Publication; London).