“Oh, I’m really sorry, the jacket potato took ages to arrive…” Do you feel guilty about taking a lunch break?

By Mike Oliver, Trainee Health Psychologist.

What has the length of time it takes to queue up for a jacket potato got to do with taking breaks at work? For some people, it turns out that it’s a handy way to explain to their colleagues why they’re “late” back from lunch. And by “late”, I don’t mean “late”. All they’ve done is taken a bit longer than they feel comfortable in taking for their lunch break.

How have we got to the point where some people feel guilty about taking their legally allowable break?

Taking a break is good for your health isn’t it? So taking breaks is just common sense isn’t it? It’s certainly not common practice. At the place I work, our latest staff survey told us that 42% of our workforce, either don’t take a lunch break at all or take less than the legally required minimum time of 20 minutes. (Yes, that’s right – it is the law for your employer to allow most workers to take a 20 minute, uninterrupted break, at some point during the day). There appears to be a growing trend nationally for large numbers of people not to take breaks at work, with surveys reporting that between 66% and 82% of workers do not always take their breaks (Bupa, 2015; Mastercard/Ipsos Mori, 2016).

In my research into the psychological and social benefits of taking breaks during the working day (in office settings), I uncovered an amazing set of thoughts and behaviours linked to taking breaks (or not) during the working day. As well as review and meta-analysis of literature in the field, I was curious to find out how people thought about taking breaks.  Putting it simply, I asked groups of office workers at a large employer, the following, deeply insightful, questions:

  • “Do you take your lunch breaks?”
  • “Why?” Or: “Why not?”

Using a combination of my curiosity and a structured way of analysing what people said, I found that:

  • Lots of people feel anxious and guilty about taking breaks
  • Work “wins”. Faced with a choice when they’re really busy, even if someone wants to take a break, then work “wins”
  • If you’ve got a great set of colleagues who all want to take lunch breaks, then guess what… you’ll take your breaks!  And if you don’t have a great set of colleagues, then guess what…?
  • If you choose to take your break at your desk, then people acknowledge that they are “fair game” for being given work to do!
  • It’s not  as simple as 2 groups emerging (those who do, and those who don’t take breaks) – people move from group to group depending on lots of situational factors

I’m now trying to work with these themes to look for ways to change the culture to one where people at least feel more comfortable to take a break if they want to. Clearly, if you have a job, the culture at your workplace will almost certainly be different to the one where I work, but perhaps, this blog might make you think a bit differently. Go on, stop reading this, move away from your screen… and take a break!


Mike will be sharing more about his research into the consequences of taking breaks (or not) during the working day at Psychologist in the Pub on Wednesday 1st May at The Glebe in Stoke.

Mike currently in his third year studies in his Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University, which he combines with working in the Public Health team in a Local Authority. Mike can be contacted via: m.oliver@student.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.

Dr Sarah Rose comments on the Momo Challenge hoax for The Sentinel

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured in The Sentinel commenting on the Momo Challenge hoax. Dr Rose, who has conducted research into the effects of viewing TV on children’s creative play, comments on the possible effects of viewing the Momo hoax on both children and their parents, and the implications for children’s online behaviours.

You can read the reports of the Momo hoax, including Dr Rose’s comments, via The Sentinel website:

The Sentinel: Stoke-on-Trent schools warn parents about ‘sick’ Momo challenge – but is it all a hoax?


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 Sarah Rose featured on BBC Radio Stoke commenting on the ‘Momo hoax’

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was briefly featured on BBC Radio Stoke commenting on the Momo Challenge hoax and the effects of the hoax on children and parents.

You can listen to Dr Rose’s interview via BBC Sounds:

BBC Sounds: Stuart George Show, BBC Radio Stoke, 28/2/2019 (from 32:40)


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

Student Blog: The importance of incorporating public and patient involvement in my MSc Research

One of our current MSc by Applied Research students, Sophia, blogs about her MSc dissertation project which is incoporating public and patient involvement into a study of experiences of local mental health services:

My current research project has been developed by myself and a team of lived experience advisors as part of a public and patient involvement (PPI) strategy. Our aims are primarily to explore the experiences of mental health service users in Stoke-on-Trent and provide a service-user perspective of these services at a local level. Secondly, we aim to add to the literature surrounding the implementation of PPI strategies and co-production in mental health research.

A PPI strategy is a plan to engage with the public and /or patient groups, depending on your research question, with a view to enhance the quality of the research. PPI teams generally offer their experience, perspective and advice through roles such as ‘advisory’ or ‘steering’ groups. But consider this. If I told you that someone I have regular contact with has helped me to develop the proposal, ethics, interview questions, participant information, analysis, dissemination plans, plain language summary, presentation, and once even provided tech support, would you describe that as an advisory role? Perhaps a co-producer is more accurate.

My area of interest is mental health; historically outcomes of importance in this area have been identified by clinicians and researchers. This has led to much research focusing on eliminating symptoms and assessing the effectiveness of psychopharmacology; and although these areas are important, outcomes such as improved quality of life are neglected and clinical trials concerning talking therapies are kin to unicorn sightings. Consequently, strategies such as that adopted by the National Institute of Health Research asking researchers to provide a plan for PPI work alongside applications for funding have become more common. However, PPI work isn’t just the concern of the NIHR. Involving the public and patient populations in your research no matter what level you are at, undergrad, MSc, PhD, or full-blown professorship with bells on, helps you to keep your research focused on population relevant questions and outcomes. That is, it allows you to investigate the things that are important to the people you are trying to help. Further to this, it provides dialogue between patient populations and researchers, allows for the exchange of knowledge and experience and develops trust in the community. It demonstrates that the research is being done, that we do care what you think about what you have been through and together we can make things better.

As students, we can contribute to a better way of conducting research and set precedents. Eliminating tokenistic steering groups and sitting down with our gran/neighbour/kids/patient/pilot participant, asking them how something was for them, really listening and making co-production the norm. I know that’s what the public and patient group I’m working with want, because I asked them.


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

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:

Dr Rachel Povey featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s The Takeaway discussing the psychology of eating behaviours

Dr Rachel Povey (Associate Professor of Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s The Takeaway programme on Thursday 24th January 2019 discussing the psychology of chlidren’s eating behaviours.

Dr Povey was interviewed for the programme and discussed her ongoing research into understanding the influences on children’s eating behaviours, including understanding food preferences amongst younger children and recent work on the social influences and the role of perceived peer norms on snacking behaviours amongst high school students. Dr Povey’s interview can be heard via the BBC Sounds website (see below):

BBC Radio Stoke – The Takeaway (from 1 hour, 18 minutes, 20 seconds into the programme)


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:

PhD Student Sian publishes her first paper in the journal Obesity Reviews!

Sian Calvert

Congratulations to our PhD Student Sian Calvert on publishing the first paper from her PhD research, a systematic review in the leading journal Obesity Reviews! Sian, supervised by Dr Robert Dempsey and Dr Rachel Povey, is one of a number of PhD students based in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University.

Sian’s PhD programme, which funded by the University, aims to develop and test the feasibility of conducting a Social Norms Approach intervention with high school students to improve adolescents’ eating behaviours by challenging some of the misperceptions of the acceptability and amount of healthy foodstuffs eaten by their fellow student peers. The Social Norms Approach is a means of promoting healthier behaviours based on informational feedback which challenges common misperceptions (i.e. the over- and under-estimation of peer behaviours) to reduce the perceived social pressure to conform to potentially unhealthy norms. Sian’s primary supervisor, Dr Robert Dempsey, leads a programme of research evaluating the Social Norms Approach at Staffordshire University and has recently published a critical review of the use of the approach as a health behaviour approach (click here to read this review).

Sian’s paper, a systematic review of the use of in-school interventions to promote healthier eating amongst 11-16 year olds, is the first to evaluate the range, format and outcomes of healthy eating interventions delivered in high school settings in the UK and around the world. The start of secondary education (or its equivalent in non-UK countries) marks a time where many students become more independent, have greater control over their dietary behaviours, and is a key period where dietary habits can form which last into adulthood. Also, there are numerous reports of increases in unhealthy eating behaviours (e.g. snacking, meal-skipping) and decreases in more healthy eating behaviours (e.g. fruit and vegetable consumption, drinking regular amounts of water) amongst this age group. The high school environment forms a key target for dietary behaviour interventions given that schools have extensive contact with students, that the school environment is relatively well controlled (meaning that interventions can be appropriately tested and controlled), and behaviours can be monitored. Sian’s review makes several recommendations for future best practice with this group of individuals, including the need for future interventions to consider the influence of peers on dietary behaviours (e.g. by including student peers in intervention campaigns and activities) as well as better evaluating the potential role of personalised, individual, feedback on dietary behaviour choices.

Dr Robert Dempsey, Sian’s supervisor, commented:

“Sian did a great job reviewing a complex and very varied literature, and this systematic review is a key part of her PhD research which has directly informed the follow-up studies she is currently analysing and writing up. To publish her work in a very competitive and highly ranked global journal before the completion of her PhD studies is a great achievement for Sian!”

Sian is currently analysing and writing up a series of qualitative and quantitative papers based on her PhD studies investigating the feasibility of the Social Norms Approach as a means of encouraging more positive healthy behaviours amongst high school students. A link to Sian’s systematic review paper can be found below:


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: