Dr Anna Lavis MA, MSc, MRes, PhD

Dr Anna Lavis

Institute of Applied Health Research
Associate Professor in Medical Anthropology

Contact details

Institute of Applied Health Research
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Birmingham, B15 2TT

Anna Lavis is an Associate Professor in Medical Anthropology in the Institute of Applied Health Research, and the Institute for Mental Health

In a range of collaborations across academic, policy and clinical interfaces, her work has two core focuses:

  1. Anna leads a programme of research into social media and health, with a particular focus on mental health. She directs the Social Media and Health Research Network, which is exploring what it would, could or should mean to 'live healthily' with social media now and in the future. Against this background, her current research asks why people may engage with online eating disorders, self-harm and suicide content, and interrogates the meanings of ‘care’ and ‘crisis’ at the intersections of online and offline spaces. Most recently, a study funded by Samaritans has used online ethnography to comprehensively explore the nuances of self-harm and suicide content on social media, investigating pathways to both harm and peer support. Anna has advised a wide range of policymakers, clinical and educational organisations on the topic of online harms, as well as various tech platforms.
  2. Anna’s second research focus lies in employing anthropological theory and method to develop approaches and solutions to the key 21st century challenge of mental ill-health. Paying attention to the socio-cultural, political and environmental contexts that shape lived experiences, she has conducted extensive research into eating disorders, self-harm, suicidality and psychosis. Threaded through these empirical focuses are conceptual emphases on materiality, specifically the material culture of mental health, and concepts, ethics and practices of care. Anna has particular expertise in ethnographic methods, having conducted sustained ethnographic fieldwork in online, clinical and community settings.

Google Scholar profile


  • PhD Medical Anthropology: Goldsmiths, University of London, 2011.
  • MRes Medical Anthropology and Research Methods: Goldsmiths, University of London, 2006.
  • MSc Social Anthropology: University College London, 2003.
  • BA European and Middle Eastern Languages: University of Oxford, 2002 (MA, 2014).


Anna Lavis is an Associate Professor in Medical Anthropology in the Social Studies in Medicine (SSiM) Team in the Institute of Applied Health Research.

Anna's research has conceptual emphases on materiality, specifically the material culture of mental health; concepts, ethics and practices of care; social media, ‘truth’ and the politics of evidence; affect, desire and intimacy. 

Anna teaches on various programmes, covering topics in qualitative methods and medical sociology/anthropology, as well as undertaking doctoral supervision both at Birmingham and externally. She regularly guest lectures at UCL and accepts invitations for teaching and examining in the UK and abroad. She is also an honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University. 


Postgraduate supervision

Anna is interested in supervising doctoral research in:

  • Social media, health and society
  • Lived experiences of mental ill-health and/or treatment interventions
  • Ethnographic explorations of mental health
  • Anorexia and/or other eating disorders, self-harm, suicidality, and psychosis 


Current and Recent Projects:

NIHR Global Health Research Centres: Research and Institutional Capacity Strengthening In NCDs Call, 2022-2027: NIHR Global Health Research Centre for Research & Capacity Building in Multiple  Long-term Conditions. Co-I. (PI: Kamlesh Khunti, Leicester).

UKRI Adolescence, Mental Health and Developing Mind Methodological Innovation call, 2022-2024: Co-Producing a Framework of Guiding Principles for Engaging Representative and Diverse Cohorts of Young People in Biological Research in Mental Health. Co-I. (PI: Paola Dazzan, KCL).

Philanthropic Donation, University of Birmingham and Internal UoB Funding, 2022-2023: Eating Disorders and Body Image Content: Understanding What makes Content Harmful and for Whom. PI.

Research England QR Enhancing Research and Knowledge Exchange Funding Programme, 2022: Rapid Research in partnership with Schools to Ensure that the UK Online safety Bill Reflects Children and Young People’s Experiences. PI.

National Institute for Health Research, Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) - NIHR201108, 2021-2023: Self-Harm in Eating Disorders: A Mixed-Methods Study (SHINE Study). PI.

UKRI/ESRC SMaRteN Student Mental Health Research Network, 2021-2022: Academic (Un)Belonging and the Neoliberal University: A Comparative Institutional Case Study of Postgraduate Researchers’ Experiences at two English Universities. Co-I. (PI: Lydia  Lewis, Wolverhampton).

Samaritans, 2021-2022: Self-Harm and Suicide, Content: Understanding What makes Content Harmful and for Whom. PI.

Samaritans, 2020: Self-Harm and Suicide Content on Social Media: A Rapid Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19. PI.

University of Birmingham, internal funding, 2020: A Real-Time Ethnographic Exploration of Coronavirus-Related Discussions on Social Media. PI.  

University of Birmingham Internal Funding, 2020-2022: Exploration of University Students’ Experience and Understandings of Covid-19 and Measures to Control its Spread. Co-I.

ESRC DTP Collaborative Studentship, 2020-2024, University of Birmingham: Deliberate self-harm in UK dance students: Prevalence, predictors, and prevention. Co-I. (PI: Jennifer Cummings, UoB).

Economic, Social, Cultural, & Environmental Impacts of Covid-19 - Urgent Response Fund, 2020: Health Impacts of Social and Environmental Restrictions from UK Lockdown: Identifying Changes in Household Eating and Activity Patterns During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Co-I. (PI: Stanley Ulijaszek, Oxford).

Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund, Oxford University, 2019-2020:  Understanding Obesity and Eating Disorders through the Material Culture of Home Environments. Co-I. (PI: Stanley Ulijaszek, Oxford).

Wellcome Trust, 2018-2019: Virtual Scars: Exploring the Ethics of Care on Social Media through Interactions Around Self-Injury. PI.

Other activities


Recent publications


Shortland, D, Fazil, Q, Hallett, N & Lavis, A 2024, 'Protocol for a scoping review of how people with ME/CFS use the internet', BMJ open, vol. 14, e076904. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2023-076904

Menzies , JC, Tooke, C, Jones, TJ, Lavis, A & Drury, N 2023, ''Just one interview’: making visible the hidden workload associated with qualitative research in healthcare', Nurse Researcher. https://doi.org/10.7748/nr.2023.e1872

Eli, K, Lavis, A, Castleman, JS, Clift, PF, Fox, CE, Giles, D, Grocott, L, Harrison, K, Hudsmith, LE, Kaplan, K, McDougall, H, Powell, C & Drury, NE 2023, 'Maternal mental health: a key area for future research among women with congenital heart disease', Open Heart, vol. 10, no. 2, e002312. https://doi.org/10.1136/openhrt-2023-002312

Joseph, L, Greenfield, S, Manaseki-Holland, S, Lekha, TR, Sujakumari , S, Jeemon, P & Lavis, A 2023, 'Patients’, carers’ and healthcare providers’ views of patient‐held health records in Kerala, India: a qualitative exploratory study', Health Expectations, vol. 26, pp. 1081-1095. https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.13721

Kolitsida, M, Cumming, J, Lavis, A & Sanchez, E 2023, 'The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Dance Freelancers in the United Kingdom', Journal of Dance Education, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 190-199. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2023.2231936

Fisher, A, Lavis, A, Greenfield, S & Rickards, H 2023, 'What does social cognition look like in everyday social functioning in Huntington’s disease? - A protocol for a scoping review to explore and synthesise knowledge about social cognition alongside day-to-day social functioning of people with Huntington’s disease', BMJ open, vol. 13, no. 7, e073655. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2023-073655

Joseph, L, Lavis, A, Greenfield, S, Boban, D, Jose, P, Jeemon, P & Manaseki-Holland, S 2022, 'A systematic review of home-based records in maternal and child health for improving informational continuity, health outcomes, and perceived usefulness in low and middle-income countries', PLOS One, vol. 17, no. 8, e0267192. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0267192

Lufumpa, N, Lavis, A, Caleyachetty, R, Henry, M, Kabombwe, S & Manaseki-Holland, S 2022, 'Exploring attributions of causality for child undernutrition: qualitative analysis in Lusaka, Zambia', Maternal and Child Nutrition, vol. 18, no. 1, e13237. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.13237

Joseph, L, Greenfield, S, Lavis, A, Lekha , TR, Jeemon, P & Manaseki-Holland, S 2022, 'Exploring factors affecting health care providers’ behaviours for maintaining continuity of care in Kerala, India; a qualitative analysis using the theoretical domains framework', Frontiers in public health, vol. 10, 891103. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.891103

Parrish, S, Lavis, A, Potter, CM, Ulijaszek, S, Nowicka, P & Eli, K 2022, 'How active can preschoolers be at home? Parents' and grandparents' perceptions of children's day-to-day activity, with implications for physical activity policy', Social Science and Medicine, vol. 292, 114557. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114557

Lavis, A, McNeil, S, Bould, H, Winston, A, Reid, K, Easter, CL, Pendrous, R & Michail, M 2022, 'Self-Harm in Eating Disorders (SHINE): a mixed-methods exploratory study', BMJ open, vol. 12, no. 7, e065065. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2022-065065

Review article

Shortland, D, Fazil, Q, Lavis, A & Hallett, N 2024, 'A systematic scoping review of how people with ME/CFS use the internet', Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1080/21641846.2024.2303887

Members of the Institute for Mental Health Youth Advisory Group 2023, 'Urban precarity and youth mental health: an interpretive scoping review of emerging approaches', Social Science and Medicine, vol. 320, 115619. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115619

Michail, M, Morgan, J & Lavis, A 2023, 'Youth partnership in suicide prevention research: moving beyond the safety discourse', BMJ open, vol. 13, no. 10, e076885. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2023-076885

Townsend, C, Humpston, C, Rogers, J, Goodyear, V, Lavis, A & Michail, M 2022, 'The effectiveness of gaming interventions for depression and anxiety in young people: systematic review and meta-analysis', British Journal of Psychiatry Open, vol. 8, no. 1, e25. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2021.1078

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