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:

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.

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.

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.

Research exploring body image in Female Athletes

Our Dr Alison Owen writes about her research exploring body image in female athletes.

Research carried out at Staffordshire University has looked into body image in a group of British female athletes, to look into how they feel about their appearance, and whether they feel that appearance pressures have impacted on their athletic careers in any way. The research was carried out by Staffordshire University graduate Tess Allen, alongside Staffordshire University Health Psychology lecturer, Dr Alison Owen.

British female athletes were interviewed individually, and asked to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their body. All of the athletes reported feeling the need to maintain a particular appearance. The women also all reported feeling pressure from outside influences, including the media, as well as from the uniforms they had to wear for their sports.

A number of suggestions and recommendations have arisen from the research findings, including a need for interventions to maintain a positive body image in female athletes, as well as considerations for factors such as uniform choice.

The work has been published in the Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies. 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


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.

My experience completing the Staffs Psychology research internship and how it helped me!

Written by Matt Kimberley, BSc Psychology 2020 Graduate and Psychology PhD student

My name is Matt and I have just finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a first and I started my PhD in psychology in September (also at Staffs). During my time at Staffs I have fallen in love with the research side of psychology and this helped me set my sights on completing a PhD in psychology. To do this I knew research experience would be extremely helpful!  Thanks to the experience gained from completing the research internships (and one terrifying interview!) I have been accepted onto the Psychology PhD course at Staffordshire University and am due to start my research into the barriers people face in the disclosure of their sexual fantasies.

My experience completing two research internship during my undergraduate studies:

The first of these was during the summer of 2019 where I assisted Dr. Jade Elliott and Dr. Erica Lucas with their project which examined the influence of glucose on reasoning. This involved assisting with the transcription and coding of audio recordings of participants. Scores were then inputted into a spreadsheet. This internship really helped me to improve my skills in the management and organisation of data. This was incredibly useful during the data analysis stage of my third-year project which produced a very large database.

This year I applied for a research internship with Dr Sam Jones. This project looks at Digital Literacy. Through this summer, I have been helping Sam to find research into digital literacy and summarise and present this in a clear manner. I have found tables especially helpful for this as a means of presenting all the studies and the key information associated. As this is a new area of research for both myself and Sam, I have particularly enjoyed learning more about the area alongside Sam and sharing our findings through weekly teams meetings. Through this internship and my meetings with Sam, I feel my literature searching skills and the way that I organise research has improved massively. This will be very helpful next year when I am conducting a literature review for my own research! Through my work on this internship, I am being made a named author on the upcoming first journal article.

Through completing both research internships, my skills in literature searching and the management of research and data have improved. This has proved incredibly useful during my studies and will be useful when conducting my own research next year. If anyone is considering doing a research internship next year, I highly recommend it! Especially if you will be completing your third-year project the following year or are considering a career in research. The skills you will gain working alongside the lecturers will be incredibly helpful!


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.

Using photographs to explore what quality of life means to assisted living residents.

Dr Amy Burton


Dr Amy Burton has recently published a paper detailing a project conducted by one of our graduates as part of their MSc Health Psychology.

Riana Mansfield’s project was supervised by Dr Amy Burton and explored assisted living residents’ experiences of quality of life.


Assisted living is a popular form of housing care for older adults. Residents benefit from their own living spaces within a supportive environment including a range of services such as domiciliary care, health care and social activities.

Understanding quality of life for these older adults is important for ensuring assisted living residences provide the best possible service. However, little work had been conducted to uncover what quality of life means to older adults or how it is experienced on a day to day basis.

Riana’s project used a unique approach of collecting photographs taken by seven assisted living residents to better understand their lives. The residents collected images that captured their own personal meanings and experiences of quality of life. Riana then discussed these pictures with the residents through research interviews.

Stock photo from Pixabay of a woman holding a camera to take a photo.

A form of qualitative analysis called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was then used to identify common themes and experiences in the residents’ accounts. Riana’s work highlighted three themes that helped to explain and understand quality of life in assisted living.

  1. Firstly, the residents believed it was important to have continuity in their lives and found new ways to continue with activities that they enjoyed or were important to them prior to assisted living.
  2. Secondly, they discussed how social events and opportunities to make new friends within assisted living were essential for ensuing good quality of life. Several enjoyed supporting other less confident residents to be part of the community.
  3. Finally, the residents spoke about the supportive environment provided by the assisted living facility. This helped them to feel safe and provided access to services and support that would aid them as they became older.

Riana and Amy’s paper concludes by making recommendations to enable assisted living facilities to help their residents maintain good quality of life. These included: supporting residents to continue with valued and meaningful activities following a move to assisted living; setting up peer support buddy systems to assist new residents with becoming part of the community and to engage them in social activities; and discussing quality of life with residents and tailoring care and support to reflect the needs and wants of individual residents.

The research paper has been published in Geriatric Nursing and can be accessed here if you would like to read about the research in more detail (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gerinurse.2020.03.021).


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:

Research Assistant during Covid-19

Written by Gina Halliwell, BSc Psychology and Child Development 2020 graduate.


BSc Psychology and Child Development graduate 2020! YAY! Not the most ideal year to graduate but made it there successfully in the end!

Graduate, check.

Research Assistant position during coronavirus, check!

Who would have thought with all the difficulties of 2020 I would complete my degree and get the chance to be a Research Assistant with Staffs! Coronavirus couldn’t have been a better opportunity really, being able to investigate children’s experiences of the pandemic through collecting their drawings.

This opportunity appeared when my Level 6 Project Supervisor Dr Sarah Rose emailed me to say she was involved in planning some research into children’s experiences of coronavirus and if the ethics and funding were approved would I like to be their Research Assistant? Of course! What an incredible opportunity!

Example drawing submitted for the research

When the project was approved we had our first virtual meeting as a project team, over Microsoft Teams! I got to meet and discuss the project with Dr Richard Jolley, Dr Claire Barlow, Dr Romina Vivaldi and of course Dr Sarah Rose. All of the meetings and communication took place online via email and Microsoft Teams, having always had face-to-face meetings throughout university this was a very odd change! Despite a few device and connectivity issues we managed, and everything worked out.

As the project began I was given responsibility for a number of tasks including background research, recruitment (both sourcing contacts and contacting those contacts), responding to queries and writing up the background research to begin forming the report’s introduction. Recruitment for the project was aimed at the whole of the UK so an important part of my role was to reach out to organisations, schools and social media groups from across the UK. This was difficult due to the varying school term times of the four countries and the general closing down of society due to the pandemic.

Example drawing submitted for the research.

Once recruitment was on its way I was able to get into the background research in preparation for the introduction. Having taken the Children’s Drawings module at Level 6 I already had an understanding of how children’s drawings are investigated and analysed and so I could focus on research more specific to the project such as research that focused on children’s drawings of illness, disease outbreaks and trauma. When conducting the background research searching I was able to use all of the literature searching skills I have gained over my 3 years at Staffs. If you are looking for an easy way to gather research with all the key information in one place I recommended putting it into a table, a tip that Dr Sarah Rose shared with me!

An example table of how to organise literature


If you get the opportunity to do any sort of Research Assistant position, go for it! It’s great work experience, it looks amazing on your CV and it’s fascinating to be able to work alongside the lecturers you see all the time!

If you would like more information on the project please do have a look at the project’s website (www.coviddrawings.org.uk) or if you have any questions please email research@coviddrawings.org.uk (we are still recruiting!). You can also read more about the project in a recent blog by Dr Richard Jolley.


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.