Dr Alison Owen is recruiting to a new study exploring factors that might be related to tanning behaviours and sunbed use

Dr Alison Owen

HLecturer in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University, Dr Alison Owen, is working in collaboration with Dr Manpal Bhogal at the University of Wolverhampton, looking at some of the factors that might be related to tanning behaviours and sunbed use.

In 2013, researchers Dr Alison Owen, Professor David Clark-Carter and Dr Emily Buckley at Staffordshire University, with Professor Sarah Grogan of Manchester Metropolitan University, carried out research and found that almost a fifth (18.6%) of women had used a sunbed at least once in the past month, with the majority of participants agreeing that a tan looked good (80%), and that tanned people look healthy (71.4%) (Williams, Grogan, Clark-Carter & Buckley, 2013). The current researchers therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore some of the factors behind people feeling positively about tanning behaviours or choosing to use a sunbed.

Dr Owen and Dr Bhogal are combining two areas of psychology in their present research: Health Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology. Their study involves an online questionnaire that will ask participants about indoor sunbed use, attitudes towards tanning and topics such as self-esteem.

If you are over 18 and are interested in participating please complete the online questionnaire – it is open to all people, both those who use sunbeds as well as those who don’t, and just involves you answering a short survey.

If you have any questions about the research then please contact Dr Alison Owen: alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Emily Thornton joins as our new Schools and Colleges Champion!

Written by Emily Thornton Psychology Schools and Colleges Champion.

I am very excited to be starting my new job role as the Psychology Department Schools and Colleges Champion. 

Emily Thornton, Psychology Schools and Colleges Champion.

I first joined Staffordshire University in 2020 to complete my MSc in the Foundations of Clinical psychology, where I completed my dissertation on Womens Lived Experiences of Autism, I am aiming to get this research published. It was during my master’s when I realised how welcoming everyone was.  After successfully completing my master’s I found the job role and it felt like the right time to join the University. 

I first fell in love with psychology when I completed an access course in social sciences (equivalent to A levels) which had a psychology module. I then went on to complete my BSc in psychology with the University of Chester. Throughout my undergraduate degree I had worked as a support worker with young people and adults in a range of settings.  

Some fun facts about me:  

  1. I have dissected a human brain in my Undergrad.  
  2. I play wheelchair basketball. 
  3. I have flown a plane (under supervision!) 

Are you a school or college and would like to arrange a talk, workshop, visit? Please get in touch: psyschoolevents@staffs.ac.uk


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Is there any positive consequence of Covid-19?

Written by Professor David Clark-Carter, Professor of Health Psychology.

Imagine you have energy-sapping fatigue or a long-lasting pain which affects your life.  You have sought medical advice but, even if tests have been conducted, you are left with no diagnosis. 

Psychologists have long recognised that this situation can be linked to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.  However, while psychologists can see that such psychological problems are a perfectly understandable consequence of chronic (i.e. long term) debilitating health conditions, there is a danger of seeing the causal link as going in the other direction.  Accordingly, the chronic condition can be seen as being the consequence of an underlying psychological state rather than the other way around. 

The situation isn’t helped when people around the sufferer, be they family, friends or members of the medical profession, deny that there is a real physical condition.  This, in turn, can lead to an understandable suspicion when psychological interventions are offered as a way to deal with the physical symptoms and lessen the psychological ones.  This may be seen as supporting the notion that the condition is a consequence of a psychological state.  However, that is far from the truth.  Even when a diagnosis of a condition is made, if no medical cure is available psychological interventions could help the sufferer to deal with the physical symptoms. 

By acquiring techniques to deal with physical symptoms, sufferers can feel more in control of their own lives and get away from a feeling of helplessness.  Even when a medical intervention can be prescribed to alleviate the physical symptoms, such as pain killers, these are unlikely to be a long term solution and can have their own problematic side effects.  The pandemic has led to conditions such as long-covid for some people.  Greater awareness of this condition could lead to greater understanding of those with other chronic conditions.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

James Vernon joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

By James Vernon, Lecturer in Psychology and Counselling, Staffordshire University

A photo of James sat a a desk working.
James Vernon

Well, what can I say other than I am over the moon, elated and struggling to find the superlatives to convey how I feel in joining the Psychology and Counselling department at Staffordshire University. I have received such a warm and friendly welcome from everybody within the department and cannot wait to begin working within the team. I have been asked to provide a bit of background about me so here goes (If you fall asleep, I understand).

After many years of working in unfulfilling roles, I decided to return to University in 2015 as a mature student at the tender age of 35 to complete my undergraduate degree in Psychology & Counselling here at Staffordshire University. Returning to the world of academia after 15 years away felt daunting but the warm welcome and unwavering support I received from the staff within the department was incredible and I was soon made to feel at home. The course content, the opportunities and the support I received whilst at Staffs inspired me to achieve my goal to which I graduate in 2018.

Yet, my Staffordshire University student journey didn’t stop there. In the autumn of 2018, I enrolled on the three-year Masters degree in Psychotherapeutic Counselling. As well as furthering my knowledge in theoretical concepts and ethical considerations relating to the field of counselling, engagement in the course provided me with the opportunity to hone my skills and develop my identity as a therapist whilst on placement. After completion of my professional training and finally obtaining my qualified counsellor status, I moved to focus my on MSc research project into the impact of COVID-19 on bereavement counselling and in particular both the impact of isolation on being in a grief like state and adjusted ways of working professionally. 

With the unprecedented and ever evolving world we find ourselves in I feel that this is exciting and fertile time for the world of Psychology and in particular the profession of Counselling. COVID-19 has provided us the ideal time to assess and evaluate what we think we know and consider how we provide support for our clients. My research interests rest here in developing new ways of working by combining traditional methods of counselling with digital technology, telephone delivery and eco therapy and also assessing the impact of COVID-19 from both a psychological, societal and ethical level.

A headshot of Chloe the Goldendoodle puppy wearing sunglasses.

Previously I have managed several mental health services across Staffordshire and South Cheshire and also have developed my own private counselling practice. Away from the world of Psychology & Counselling I am a keen sportsman and can be often found on the golf course, walking my Goldendoodle pup Chloe or cycling exploring the amazing networks across the city.

I am honestly overjoyed to be at Staffordshire University and working as part of an amazing team. I am really looking forward to meeting the students and hopefully offering the same inspiration that was afforded to me. Please stop me if you see me across campus and say “Hi” or even better you can let me bore you even more with photos of my dog by following me on twitter @JamesVernon9318.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Dr Megan Birney joins the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University!

The Psychology Academic team are pleased to welcome Dr Megan Birney who joined the University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences in June 2021. Megan introduces herself below:

I am so excited to be joining the vibrant and friendly Psychology Department at Staffordshire University as a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences.

I am a social psychologist at heart! My research centres around identity processes, intergroup contact, communication, social stigma, obedience, and social exclusion; I love teaching about how these theories can be applied to real-world problems in society and passing some of my passion for these topics on to my students.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies (specialising in International Studies and Business Leadership) from Virginia Tech (USA). I went on to receive an MSc (with distinction) in Social and Organisational Psychology in 2010 and a PhD in Psychology in 2015, both from the University of Exeter. My research during this time focused on understanding how perceptions of non-native accents influence the relationship between immigrants and host country natives. After my PhD, I worked as a Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews investigating the role that identity processes play within variants of the Milgram paradigm. I am still involved in these projects today.

Prior to coming to Staffordshire, I spent 6 years at the University of Chester helping develop the psychology provision at undergraduate and postgraduate level at their campus in Shrewsbury. I both taught and led modules there in areas related to Social Psychology, Organisational Psychology, and Quantitative Research Methods, and in 2016, I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Throughout this time, I remained an active researcher. Some highlights include co-editing a special issue in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology and starting as an Associate Editor at the open-access journal, Psychology of Language and Communication.

Currently, I have several ongoing projects with various collaborators and with the community organisation Climbing Out. I’m always keen to get students involved in these projects where I can so if you’re interested do get in touch via email (megan.birney@staffs.ac.uk) or my Twitter account: @meganebirney

My first couple of weeks at Staffordshire have been really exciting; I’ve loved meeting the colleagues I’ll be working with and am looking forward to getting ‘stuck in’ to the modules I’ll be teaching on. Staffordshire University has such an excellent balance between producing innovative research and their value on high-quality teaching. I am truly honoured to be a part of it all!


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates: Reflections of an Alumni by Chrissie Fitch

Written by Psychology and Child Development graduate Chrissie Fitch BSc (Hons) MSc MBPsS

During secondary school, I had the opportunity of attending a conference where Elizabeth Loftus discussed her work in eyewitness testimony, and Christine Sizemore shared her experiences with multiple personality disorder. At this time, I also became aware of neurodevelopmental and neurogenerative disorders as I babysat for a disabled infant and cared for my grandmother who had dementia. This piqued my interest in psychology as a young teen and caused me to take the subject at A Level. However, it was during my gap year, almost twelve years ago, whilst teaching English to 5-12-year-olds at a charity school in Sri Lanka and studying online courses in child psychology and counselling that I realised my passion of pursuing it as a career – I now do distance learning course authoring and tutoring myself!

During my degree, I volunteered at a local children’s centre and gained experience of working with children of varying needs and abilities; every child I have met has taught me a lot about life. Obtaining an unconditional place on the BSc (Hons) Psychology and Child Development degree with foundation year at Staffordshire University was a dream come true.

Whilst I majored in child psychology, I really enjoyed the other optional modules because it widened my knowledge and revealed links to my chosen specialism.  I would say that the most difficult module was research methods; I tended to get quite frustrated with SPSS and couldn’t get my head around certain qualitative methods. Saying that, I ended up managing to take advanced research methods in final year, which wouldn’t have happened without the help and encouragement of the lecturers and tutors as they made classes interactive and were always on hand to help if we were struggling in any way. My project supervisor helped me with my master’s application, and I am still in contact with her; they really do go above and beyond at Staffs!  

Whilst I have worked as an honourary research assistant for a school interventions project, I struggled with finding paid assistant psychologist posts after my master’s.  Despite this, I have learnt that determination, hard work and perseverance will pay off when the time is right. I’m currently self-employed and work remotely as a distance learning assessor and internal verifier for the psychology and counselling courses. As a graduate member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), I have attended and volunteered at conferences, edited articles for various magazines and have also written reviews for various divisions as well as BPS The Psychologist magazine. I have also been able to get friends and colleagues featured on the website.

Highlights of my learning are researching about adult intuitive eating habits and body image satisfaction for my undergraduate project and predicting that factors like parenting and self-compassion affect these for my master’s dissertation. With the encouragement of my supervisors and alongside some invaluable friends and colleagues, I got a research article based on both studies published by the BPS Division of Health Psychology and also a literature review by the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology. As Visiting Research Associate of the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit at the University of Bristol, I am investigating the parental feeding practices and problems of primary school-aged children with and without a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. More recently, I was appointed as associate editor of the Culture section of BPS The Psychologist magazine.

I have done things differently to many of my peers, most of whom worked part-time alongside the degree and are now in assistant psychologist roles or on doctoral programmes, but I wouldn’t change anything. Everyone is different and has their own set of beliefs, goals and dreams; I am content in the knowledge that I am able to help people in the way that I have been helped. I believe I am continuing to hone my skills in order to work with the sensitivity and dedication that is needed for a psychologist. I can’t wait to someday qualify as a chartered psychologist and be able to make contributions to the improvement of educational and socioemotional outcomes of children, young people and their families when they need it most. It all started at Staffs!

If you have any questions about my journey please email or follow me on twitter!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Ambassadors Open Day Staffs Uni

Reduced physical activity and increased sedentary behaviour: the damage on young people during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr Alison Owen

Research carried out at Staffordshire University has looked at the impact in young people of a reduction in physical activity and an increase in sedentary behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was carried out by Staffordshire University Health Psychology lecturer, Dr Alison Owen, alongside Dr Kathryn Bould, a lecturer in Psychology at Liverpool John Moores university.

The research involved looking at the results of studies published since the start of the pandemic, to bring together the findings of the pieces of research looking at physical activity and sedentary behaviour in young people during the pandemic. Stockwell et al. (2021) define physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that results in energy expenditure, and can include exercising, walking, gardening and doing household chores. Sedentary behaviours can be defined as any waking behaviour with an energy expenditure of ≤1.5 metabolic equivalents while in a sitting or reclining posture, including watching TV, video gaming and computer use (Stockwell et al., 2021).

The studies showed that children’s physical activity behaviours have lessened significantly during these times, while their sedentary behaviours have risen significantly. For example one study (Moore et al., 2020), found that only 4.8% (2.8% girls, 6.5% boys) of children and 0.6% (0.8% girls, 0.5% boys) of youth were meeting combined movement behaviour guidelines during COVID-19 restrictions. They found that children had lower physical activity levels, less outside time, higher sedentary behaviours (including leisure screen time), and more sleep during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In their report, Dr Owen and Dr Bould made some suggestions for ways to encourage and foster physical activity in both children and their families, for example by showing people different ways of staying active and offering other opportunities for physical activity, as well as ensuring the feeling of staying safe and being protected.

The work has been published in the British Journal of Child Health. If you are interested in reading the full article, or have any questions about the study then please contact Dr Alison Owen – alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk

References

Moore, S., Faulkner, G., & Rhodes R (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 virus outbreak on movement and play behaviours of Canadian children and youth: a national survey. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17(1), 85.

Owen, A. & Bould, K. (2021). Reduced physical activity and increased sedentary behaviour: the damage on young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.British Journal of Child Health, 2(2), 64-68.

Stockwell, S., Trott, M. & Tully, M. (2021). Changes in physical activity and sedentary behaviours from before to during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown: a systematic review. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. 7:e000960.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Etched in the skin: Grief on a living canvas, memorial tattoos as expressions of grief

Written by PhD researcher Bee Swann-Thomas.

Bee Swann-Thomas

I am Bee Swann-Thomas and I am currently in my second year of studying for a PhD in Psychology. My research interest is exploring whether having a memorial tattoo has an impact upon the grieving process.

I have previously researched this topic for my MSc in Psychotherapeutic Counselling at Staffordshire University. What sparked my interest was the death of my Dad and having a memorial tattoo in his memory. Memorial tattoos have a very personal meaning to me, and I am pleased to have recently had my paper published in Mortality Journal.

The findings from this research showed that memorial tattoos can be a valuable therapeutic aid in the grieving process. They can serve as a permanent physical reminder of a loved one, help with continuing bonds, allow the deceased a virtual afterlife, help in the adjustment to loss, serve as a tool of communication, and be an embodied representation of change. Memorial tattoos empower the bereaved to emerge from the loss of a loved one with a ‘beautiful scar’.

Conducting my MSc research was really fascinating, and it was an honour to hear peoples’ stories of love and loss. As a result, I have decided to continue my research for my PhD.

I would like to invite you to participate in my research that is being conducted in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University. I am interested in the experience of individuals (aged 18 years or over) who have experienced the loss of a loved one and have had a memorial tattoo in their memory. I will be researching five different categories of bereavement: Perinatal loss, Loss through suicide, Military Loss, Cremation ashes tattoos and Loss through Covid-19.

The research will involve a one-to-one interview conducted remotely via the Microsoft Teams platform. The interview will last approximately 1 hour, where you will be asked questions relating to your loved one and your memorial tattoo. You will also be asked to provide a photograph of your memorial tattoo which will be included within the research.

If you are interested in taking part in the research or would like to request further information please contact the me at bee.swann-thomas@research.staffs.ac.uk


If you are affected by any of the bereavements outlined and would like to access a grief support service please contact one of the following:

  • Sands – Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, Helpline: 0808 164 332, Email: helpline@sands.org.uk
  • Suviviors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), Helpline: 0300 111 5065, Email: support@uksobs.org
  • Supporting the Military Family, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk
  • The Lullaby Trust, Helpline: 0808 802 6868, Email: support@lullabytrust.org.uk
  • Covid-19 Bereavement Support, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Dr Amy Burton contributes to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment

Dr Amy Burton

Dr Amy Burton has contributed to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment. The book, entitled Movement and Visual Impairment: Research across Disciplines has been edited by Dr Justin Haegele and is an in-depth review of research spanning a range of disciplines including biomechanics, physical education and Paralympic sport.

Dr Burton’s chapter reviews the research evidence regarding physical activity interventions for older adults with vision impairment. The chapter includes an over view of her own work highlighting how engaging in physical activity in later-life can be particularly challenging for those with vision loss (Burton et al, 2016) with a number of psychological, social and societal factors contributing to low levels of engagement (Burton et al, 2018).

Visually impaired person walking

The chapter provides a detailed overview and critique of interventions designed to promote physical activity for older adults with sight loss. The majority of these have been dedicated to reducing falls risk and have shown limited success. In the chapter Dr Burton highlights how a focus on functional limitations in research has been at the expense of acknowledging other psychological, cultural, and societal barriers to engagement. The chapter ends with a call for researchers to further engage with the social motivators for exercise in older adults with sight loss and to pay greater attention to the potential for the psychological, in addition to physical, benefits of being more active.

To learn more or purchase a copy of this book visit: https://www.routledge.com/Movement-and-Visual-Impairment-Research-across-Disciplines/Haegele/p/book/9780367434397


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.