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.

The impact that lockdown might be having on body image

Dr Alison Owen appeared on BBC Radio Ulster on May 1st 2020 on the Evening Extra show with Devon Harvey and Julie McCullough to discuss the impact that lockdown may be having on people’s body image.

Dr Alison Owen

The discussion was based around the way that people are feeling about themselves during lockdown. For example, in terms of people not being able to get their hair cut or dyed or maintain their usual beauty regime.

Dr Owen talked about the fact that although many people are in lockdown at the moment, they are finding that they do still feel a lot of pressure on their appearance.

She discussed the impact that video calling may have on people’s body image. Many people are taking part in video calling, using applications such as Zoom and FaceTime, both for work and for keeping in touch with friends and family. This means that people are looking at their faces on a screen much more often than they usually would. This can really add to the pressure of maintaining a more polished appearance, so things like making sure that their hair looks presentable, or maybe feeling like they should apply makeup.

Another factor that was discussed during the programme was that video calling can bring attention to appearance-based flaws that people wouldn’t normally be focussing on. So, for example, wrinkles or imperfections that they can see whilst watching themselves on the screen.

Additionally, Dr Owen discussed how people may be spending more time on social media during lockdown, because they aren’t able to get out and see friends and family in person it’s a good way of feeling connected to them. However, this can also lead to pressures in terms of looking at more heavily filtered images of their friends and family as opposed to seeing them in person where they may not look so polished!

You can catch up on the radio interview, which is available up to June 1st. Dr Owen’s discussions are from around 55 minutes in.


The Science Centre

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.

Body Image & Love Island: Dr Alison Owen discusses on BBC Radio Stoke

Dr Alison Owen

Dr Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology; Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s Lucas Yeoman’s evening show discussing her body image research ahead of the new series of Love Island.

Love Island, a reality TV series, has attracted controversy over its suggested negative effects on body image amongst men and women, as well as media reports of poor mental health and deaths by suicide amongst former contestants.

Dr Owen discussed what body image is, how it may be influenced by social media and representations of body shapes presented on popular media, and discussed some of her ongoing studies researching the effects of positive and negative body image ideals on a variety of health-related behaviours.

You can listen to Dr Owen’s interview via the BBC Sounds website and app – a link to the programme can be found below:

BBC Sounds: Lucas Yeomans – BBC Radio Stoke (3.6.2019)


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 Alison Owen discusses her body image research on BBC Radio Stoke for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Dr Alison Owen

Dr Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology; Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s Breakfast Show with John Acres on Monday 13th May discussing body image as part of 2019’s Mental Health Awareness Week. For the 2019 Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation has focused on people’s experience of body image in relation to their psychological wellbeing.

Dr Owen has conducted a number of studies into people’s experiences of positive and negative body image, the impact of appearance-focus on health-related behaviours (e.g. smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol), and the relationship between social media use and body image esteem. You can listen to Dr Owen’s interview via the below BBC Sounds link:

BBC Sounds: BBC Radio Stoke – John Acres Breakfast Show (13.5.2019 – from 52 mins, 45 seconds in)


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.

New body image study seeking beauticians and beauty therapists!

Do you work as a beautician or beauty therapist?

Researchers Dr Alison Owen and Dr Jennifer Taylor at the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, Staffordshire University, are carrying out research looking at body image in beauticians and beauty therapists.

Both researchers have a background in research looking at body image and peoples’ thoughts and feelings about their appearance, for example Dr Owen has carried out work looking at body image in Girl Guides (click here for further information), and Dr Taylor has carried out work exploring peoples’ views on sun tanning and their appearance (click here).

Dr Owen and Dr Taylor are expanding their body image research and exploring what beauty therapists/beauticians think and feel about their appearance, as well as how working within the beauty industry may impact upon these thoughts and feelings. Their study involves an online questionnaire that will ask participants about their feelings about their appearance and their work.

If you currently work as a beautician then please click on the following link to complete the questionnaire and take part in the study: https://tinyurl.com/ybbx8aro

If you have any questions about the research then please contact Dr Alison Owen on alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk or Dr Jennifer Taylor on jennifer.taylor@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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

New research published into the impact of an appearance-focused facial ageing intervention on adolescents’ sun protection

By Dr Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research)

It has been suggested that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, including exposure to the sun and sunbeds, are the primary causes of all melanomas, leading to skin cancer (World Health Organization, 2018). Malignant melanoma is the second most common cancer in 15-34-year olds, and at least two young people in Britain receive this diagnosis every day (Cancer Research UK, 2018).

As a group, adolescents have been found to have poor sun protection practises, with research suggesting that as children progress into adolescence they are less under observation by their parents, so they need to take additional responsibility for their UV protective behaviours, a task that was left to their parents before this. It is therefore really important to come up with ways of informing adolescents about the impact that the sun and sunbeds can have on their skin, and the importance of protecting themselves form harmful UV rays.

Staffordshire University lecturers Dr Alison Owen, Professor David Clark-Carter and Dr Emily Buckley, along with Professor Sarah Grogan from Manchester Metropolitan University, decided to carry out an intervention aimed specifically at young people aged between 11 and 14 years of age, to show them the impact that UV exposure can have on their skin, in the hope that it would encourage them to think differently about protecting themselves from UV exposure.

The participants in their study were 237 adolescents, 60 of whom were randomly allocated to participate in the appearance-focused intervention condition and 176 to a control condition, who simply completed the questionnaires and did not receive an intervention. The researchers used a piece of computer software called AprilAge, which showed the young people projected images of themselves from their current age up to the age of 72 years, and allowed them to compare images of how they may look in the future if they did not protect their skin from the sun and sunbeds, in comparison to how their skin would look if they did protect it.

The adolescents who had participated in the intervention had significantly greater intentions to use sun protection, significantly more negative sun risk beliefs, lower sun benefit attitudes and higher perceived sun damage susceptibility after viewing the information given than participants in the control group, suggesting that this type of intervention is a really effective way to get young people thinking more positively about protecting their skin from the sun.

The research has recently been published in the British Journal of School Nursing, and the researchers hope that school nurses will be able to take the findings further, and use software such as the APRIL intervention in sessions with their young students, to get them thinking about the sun and the impact it can have on their skin. Please contact Dr Alison Owen at alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk if you have any questions about the research.


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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Have you used a sunbed in the past year? New online study seeking volunteers!

Researchers Dr. Alison Owen and Dr. Jennifer Taylor from the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research (Staffordshire University) are working in collaboration with Dr. Manpal Bhogal at the University of Wolverhampton, looking at some of the factors that might influence a person to use a sunbed.

The inside view of a tanning bed

Five years ago, 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 researchers therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore some of the factors behind people choosing to use a sunbed.

Drs Owen, Taylor, and Bhogal, are combining two areas of psychology in their present research: Health Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology, to explore some of the reasons why people may engage in this attractiveness enhancing practice. Their study involves using an online questionnaire that will ask participants about indoor sunbed use and topics such as self-esteem, mate value and sexual competition.

Interested in taking part in this study? If you are over 18 and have used a sunbed in the past year, please click here for further information about the study and/or to take part.

If you have any questions about the research, please contact Dr Alison Owen on 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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Body Esteem & Social Media use: StaffsPsych Graduate Hollie publishes her undergraduate research!

By Dr. Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

As you’re probably already aware, social media is widely used nowadays. For example, the last recorded statistics of this year showed that Facebook alone had 2.27 billion monthly active users and one billion people were using Instagram in June 2018.

Researchers at the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research decided to look into whether using social media has an impact on a person’s feelings towards their body. Staffordshire University Undergraduate student Hollie Ormsby, along with her supervisors (Dr. Alison Owen and collaborator Dr. Manpal Bhogal from the University of Wolverhampton), surveyed 100 students, with participants completing measures of social media use and body esteem. The body esteem measure looks at how people feel about their body, and includes statements such as ‘I am proud of my body’. Hollie and her supervisors found that social media use and intensity of use (the amount of time people spent on social media) did not predict a person’s body esteem. However, they did find that the women had significantly lower body esteem compared to men. Whilst it might seem disappointing not to replicate previous studies’ findings in relation to body esteem and social media use, this study provides useful evidence indicating that the assumed negative effects of social media use may be more complicated than previously thought, especially in relation to body esteem.

Hollie and her supervisors have recently published their findings in the journal Current Psychology (click here to view the paper) and Hollie is progressing her studies at Staffordshire University on the Department of Psychology’s new MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology course after completing her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree in 2018.


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

New study seeking participants for an alcohol-related appearance intervention

Dr Alison Owen

Dr Alison Owen, a lecturer in Health Psychology and a member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has carried out a series of pieces of research looking at the impact of appearance-focussed interventions on a person’s health choices. Previous research has found that health-focussed campaigns can often fail to motivate many young people to change their behaviour, with many people feeling that health-related threats are too long- term to concern them and not relevant to them. However, it is known that for many young men and women, their appearance is a key priority for them (Grogan, 2012).

For her PhD, carried out at Staffordshire University, Dr Owen therefore decided to focus on interventions that showed people the impact of health choices on a person’s appearance, as opposed to the more traditional health-focussed interventions. Dr Owen used a piece of computer software called AprilAge, which shows participants projected images of themselves up to the age of 72 years, and allowed them to compare images of themselves after exposing their skin to the sun without using protection with those where they have been protecting their skin from the sun. Dr Owen and her PhD supervision team (Professor Sarah Grogan, Professor David Clark-Carter and Dr Emily Buckley) found some really positive findings, with participants reporting significantly higher intentions to use sun protection after viewing the intervention. The software has also been used at Staffordshire University by Dr Keira Flett and Prof. Clark-Carter, showing people the impact that smoking can have on a persons’ appearance, again with very promising findings.Dr Owen and Dr Flett, alongside Professor Grogan (Manchester Metropolitan University) have now expanded their research to look at another health behaviour – drinking alcohol. Along with software designer Auriole Prince, the researchers came up with a piece of software called Change My Face, that like AprilAge, is able to show people from their current age up to the age of 72, but this time, showing them the impact that moderate and high alcohol consumption can have on their skin, compared to if they have been drinking within the recommended limits.

The researchers are currently recruiting participants for a study investigating the effectiveness of the software, in comparison with an intervention that informs people of the possible health impacts of alcohol consumption. If you have any questions about the research or are interested in taking part in the study then please email Dr Alison Owen at Alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk or research assistant Alex Morley-Hewitt at m014871b@student.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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Body Image in Girl Guides: New Research by Dr Alison Owen & graduate Emily

By Dr Alison Owen, Lecturer in Psychology.

More than 400,000 girls meet regularly as Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and The Senior Section in the UK (Girlguiding, 2018). Together they learn skills, grow in confidence, make lifelong friendships, help their communities and have lots of fun (Girlguiding, 2018). Despite the positive skills that the members learn through the organisation, the ‘Girl’s Attitudes Survey’ (Girlguiding 2016), recorded that almost half of all its members aged between 11 and 21 claim that the way they look holds them back. Sixty-one percent of members aged between 7 and 21 were happy with the way they looked; indicating that almost 40% of the children and adolescents surveyed were unhappy with their appearance. The report published the survey results and explained that young girls have been victims of body criticism and that body dissatisfaction peaks as adolescents transition into becoming young adults.

Researchers at Staffordshire University decided to expand the findings of the ‘Girl’s Attitude Study’, and carry out a study looking at body image in a group of Girlguides using a qualitative approach. Emily Griffiths, who graduated from Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology course, carried out focus groups, speaking to groups of members at a local Girlguiding unit, about their thoughts and feelings about their bodies. Alongside Dr Alison Owen, the researchers analysed the findings from the focus groups, and four themes were identified: “Emotions and Feelings”, “Conversations and Critiques”, “Weight and Size” and “Influences on Body Image”. The results of the study found that on the whole, the participants reported having positive body image and feeling positively about their bodies, however they also identified areas that made them feel more negatively about their appearance, for example social media and the media in general.

Dr Owen continues to carry out research looking at body image in different sections of the population, and Dr Owen and Emily Griffiths are hoping to expand the research with members of Girlguiding in the future.

If you are interested in reading more about the study plaese visit the British Journal of School Nursing’s website:

References:

Girlguiding (2016). Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2016. Available at https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/social-action-advocacy-and-campaigns/research/girls-attitudes-survey/

Girlguiding (2018). Our Mission. Available at https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/about-us/what-makes-guiding-special/our-mission/


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 and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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