MSc Health Psychology Graduate Wins National Prize for their Dissertation!

By Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma Hurst (Co-Directors, MSc Health Psychology)

As the course directors for the MSc Health Psychology, we are delighted to announce that former Staffordshire University student Sophie Phillips has been awarded the Division of Health Psychology’s MSc Research Project Prize for the best MSc dissertation in the UK!

Her dissertation titled “Do Physical Activity Calorie Expenditure (PACE) Food Labels Help Increase Healthier Food Choices? An Eye-Tracking Investigation” beat off strong competition from candidates at other institutions. Sophie’s prize is £200 toward the registration fee for this year’s Division of Health Psychology Conference and an oral presentation to be delivered at the conference in July at Manchester.

It is really exciting that Sophie has won because our graduate Sarah Higgins was a recipient of this prize in 2016 (click here for details of Sarah’s prize). Having two wins in the past four years is brilliant and really highlights the high quality of work that our students are able to achieve!

Supervisor Dr. Heather Semper commented:

“working with Sophie on her dissertation has been an absolute pleasure, her study was interesting and used novel innovative methodology. The findings of her study have real world implications and could be used to influence decisions about food label content. I am sure she is a rising star – one to watch in the health psychology research field”

Sophie says:

“I am delighted to have been awarded the DHP MSc research project prize. I am very grateful to the Health Psychology team at Staffordshire University for their support throughout the whole of the masters, and for providing me with this wonderful opportunity. I am really looking forward to attending and presenting my work at the DHP conference!”

Sophie is currently carrying out her PhD research at Durham University. This primarily involves exploring options for the measurement of movement-related behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviours and sleep) of pre-school children from socio-economically deprived communities. The aim of this research is to develop and evaluate a measurement tool that can be used to assess the movement related behaviours of pre-school children at a population/public health level. As part of her research, Sophie is working alongside the ‘A Better Start’ team, a programme and evaluation with a focus on reducing inequalities and improving the outcomes of children from low socio-economic status backgrounds.


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.

Student Success! MSc Health Psychology Student Publishes her Dissertation Research

By Dr Sarah Dean, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire University.

Lucy Field

Lucy Field completed the MSc in Health Psychology at  Staffordshire University in 2017 and has recently had her dissertation research, which was supervised by Dr Sarah Dean, published as an open access article in the Global Journal of Health Science.

It has been recognised that stress can have a very negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing and it is therefore important that interventions are designed to help people deal with stressors effectively. One way of doing this is to use interventions that help people to become more aware of their bodies, their response to stress and how to regulate this. Lucy’s work explored the effectiveness of a biofeedback intervention, using the HeartMath training programme, to reduce a person’s physiological response to stressors. It was found that the intervention had positive effects for participants. Participants reported feeling less stressed and more relaxed after taking part in the intervention and Lucy’s physiological data supported this. Future research is needed to explore the use of HeartMath further.

This is what Lucy had to say about her time on the MSc:

“I really enjoyed my MSc in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University. Health promotion and stress have become areas of specialty for me. I completed my research on stress using a  biofeedback technique with support from my tutor and other researchers in the field. This has been published! I would not have believed this to be something I could have accomplished at the beginning of the course. I am now looking forward to starting the Prof Doc in Health Psychology!”

Please click here to read Lucy’s published article.

Field, L. H., Edwards, S. D., Edwards, D. J., & Dean, S. E. (2018). Influence of HeartMath Training Programme on Physiological and Psychological Variables. Global Journal of Health Science, 10(2), 126-133.


Thinking about postgraduate study in Health Psychology?

If you are interested in studying our BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology why not sign up to our next Open Afternoon on Tuesday 3rd July?

For more information about the Open Afternoon, please email the MSc Health Psychology  Course Directors Dr Sarah Dean s.dean@staffs.ac.uk or Dr Gemma Hurst G.L.Hurst@staffs.ac.uk.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for 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 Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

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 explores mothers’ experiences of feeding infants

By Dr Sarah Dean, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

Researchers at The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, based at Staffordshire University, are conducting a study to learn more about the experiences of new Mums who live in Stoke-on-Trent. Dr Sarah Dean and Professional Doctorate student Sarah Thurgood are leading this research, which is funded by CHAD (The Centre for Health and Development), in order to learn more about factors that influence infant feeding.

The research team hope to use the information gathered to learn more about the types of support Mums have found useful and areas they felt less supported in. The idea is that this knowledge could then be used to inform future research or to help in the design of future interventions to help new mums with feeding their babies. The survey is open to mothers living in Stoke-on-Trent who have had their first baby between 6 weeks and 6 months ago.

Interested in taking part in this study? Click here to visit the study’s website for further information and/or to take part


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for 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 Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

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 Sarah Dean blogs in support of World Orthoptic Day 2017!

Dr Sarah Dean

The 5th of June 2017 marks World Orthoptic Day! Being a researcher in Health Psychology (and having an Orthoptist for a sister), I believe it is really important to support orthoptists in raising their profile.

Many people are unaware of the important role that orthoptists play in eye health. Orthoptists typically work in hospitals where they are involved in investigating, diagnosing and treating a range of eye related conditions, one of which is amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’, which is where my research interests lie. Orthoptists work with people of all ages from premature babies to older adults, and with a variety of medical conditions that can affect their eyes, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders. They may also work with people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury. Overall, they are a vital part of the vision team!

Children with amblyopia have poor vision in one eye and without treatment this vision does not develop properly, meaning they have an increased risk of blindness. Treatment for amblyopia often involves the child being prescribed a patch to wear over their ‘good’ eye for part of the day. This forces the child to use their ‘lazy eye’ which allows the vision to develop. Although this treatment can work really well when used with children under 7 years old, a lot of people find it difficult to adhere to their prescribed treatment.

In my research I explore ways of improving adherence to treatment. In our paper, myself and my colleagues, Dr Rachel Povey and Jessica Reeves, investigated how effective existing interventions which aimed to increase compliance to patching treatment in children with amblyopia were. The next stage of the research will involve interviewing children to learn more about their experience of wearing an eye patch. Hopefully continuing with this research will lead to improved outcomes for children and will help to raise awareness of orthoptics.

Dean, S.E., Povey, R.C., Reeves J. (2016). Assessing interventions to increase compliance to patching treatment in children with amblyopia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Ophthalmology,100, 159-165.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for 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 Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

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:

Exercise for All! The beneficial effects of physical activity for all ages

Dr Sarah Dean (Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology & a Trainee Health Psychologist) and Dr Amy Burton (Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology & Health Psychologist) blog about ageing, health, stereotyping and physical activity in a piece reposted from the Stoke Sentinel newspaper:

If we were to ask you to describe your typical older person chances are we’d get a wide range of answers from “grey-haired, lonely, unable to work”, “frail, memory problems and declining health” to “wise, caring, happy and active”. What is clear is that there isn’t a ‘typical older person’ at all but there are lots of negative stereotypes that are linked to aging. Interestingly there are now many more older people alive than ever before and this number is set to rise dramatically in the coming years, with record numbers of people living into their 80s, 90s and beyond!

dean-burton-sentinel-image

Physical activity is really important for everyone and this doesn’t change as we get older. Exercising keeps us physically fit and helps protect us from developing a range of major illnesses including stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia. It can help us to feel good about ourselves, be a great stress buster and be a fun way to socialise.

Even though many of us know taking exercise is good for us, some people find it difficult. There are many reasons people might have for not exercising. Some feel they are too busy or that it’s too expensive. Others feel nervous about starting a new activity or worry that they are too unfit or overweight to start exercising. People may even think that they are too old for exercise!

As they get older some people start to do much less exercise, others stay physically active and some take up new sports or activities when they retire. One reason for these differences is the extent to which people believe negative aging stereotypes and the extent they apply these to themselves. If someone believes the stereotype that “Aging means a decline in fitness and an increase in ill health” and also believes “I am an older person so I can expect to be less fit and have poorer health” they are much less likely to engage in physical activity than someone who doesn’t believe the stereotype at all or someone who doesn’t believe it applies to them and instead thinks “I am not your average older person, so I can run a marathon”. For example, in 2011 British national Fauja Singh became the first 100 year-old to complete a marathon! At Staffordshire University we are exploring ways of measuring aging self-stereotypes. Once we can accurately measure them we can explore ways of changing them, which should encourage more older adults to exercise!

So…what does all of this mean for you? Regardless of your age, engaging in some form of physical activity each week is likely to be good for you. With Stoke currently the European City of Sport there couldn’t be a better time to do a little more exercise or try something new! If you plan to regularly take exercise it’s a good idea to choose something you enjoy. You should also choose something suited to your current fitness level and your budget. A range of exercise classes are available at the local gyms, such as Zumba, circuit training, aqua aerobics and Osteo-Aqua (a low-impact class designed to combat the effects of conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as keeping the joints supple). You could try Walking Football or Tai Chi, join a Walking for Health Group or try out one of the 5k Parkruns at 9am every Saturday in Hanley Park.

If you are an older adult or are worried about getting older here are a few things for you to bear in mind:

  • While it’s true that physical changes do occur in us as we get older, a rapid decline in our health and physical functioning is not inevitable. Regular exercise can help to protect against decline and improve stamina and fitness.
  • The way we think about things can have a really big impact on the way that we behave and feel. Research has shown that simply encouraging older adults to think about negative aging stereotypes results in short term memory declines, slower walking speeds and poorer handwriting!
  • If you have a medical condition or have had an injury that makes certain activities difficult or unsuitable for you, try to find something that you can safely do.
  • If you have any doubts remember to discuss increasing your levels of physical activity with your GP first.

The take home message? In relation to exercise, we should put less focus on our age and more focus on our own abilities and goals!


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a Psy1centre of excellence for teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and BPS Accredited Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology.

The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research and the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise, one of the leading research-active academic schools for Psychology and Sport degrees situated in the heart of England.

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

New Research into Stereotypes of Ageing funded by Staffordshire University

Amy_Burton_150_tcm44-79990

Dr Amy Burton

Dr Amy Burton and Dr Sarah Dean, Senior Lecturers in Psychology, have been successful in securing funding from the Staffordshire University REF2020 research scheme to explore ageing stereotypes. Amy blogs on their research plans:

In the UK there are currently 10 million people aged 65 and above and it is predicted that this will reach 19 million by 2050 (Cracknell, 2010). Average life expectancy has increased steadily but healthy life expectancy has not matched this, meaning additional demands are being placed on services such as the NHS (Cracknell, 2010). It is recognised both within academic literature (e.g. Reed, Stanley, & Clarke, 2004) and in the work of charities (e.g. Age UK, 2013) that research is crucial to understanding the experiences of older adults in order to break down the barriers preventing them from active participation in society and healthy ageing. Such research will have a substantial impact on the health and well-being of older adults.

Dec 15 AB SD REF2020 piece

Sarah Dean profile pic

Dr Sarah Dean

Dr Burton’s research into barriers and facilitators to physical activity in older people with sight loss highlighted an important psychological concept in need of further exploration (Burton, Clancy, & Cowap, n.d. Under Review). During focus groups participants frequently used examples of negative self-directed stereotypes to justify reduced participation in physical activity (e.g. Young adults, rather than 70 or 80 year olds […] they are the ones that really need all of the exercise and can actually do it’). Stereotype Embodiment Theory proposes that age stereotypes can be internalised by individuals across the lifespan (Levy, 2009). Such self-directed stereotypes have been implicated in reductions in cognitive functioning and physical health (Levy, 2003).  Furthermore, evidence suggests that attributing illness and functional decline to old age and holding the belief that ‘to be old is to be ill’ is associated with negative health outcomes and reductions in health maintenance behaviours (Beyer, Wolff, Warner, Schüz, & Wurm, 2015; Stewart, Chipperfield, Perry, & Weiner, 2012).

Dr Burton and Dr Dean will be using the REF2020 funding to further explore and define the ageing stereotypes held by people living in the UK and how self-directed stereotypes impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for older people.


Drs Burton and Dean are members of Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology, a centre of excellence for teaching and research in health psychology, and are course leaders for Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology. The Centre for Health Psychology is part of the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise, one of the leading research-active academic schools for Psychology and Sport degrees situated in the heart of England.

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


 

Dr Sarah Dean: Reviewing Eye-Patching Treatment for Children with Amblyopia

Sarah Dean profile pic

Dr Sarah Dean

Dr Sarah Dean, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and a member of Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology, summarises the findings from her recent review of research on patching treatment for children with amblyopia which has recently been published by the British Journal of Ophthalmology:

Amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’ is a condition that affects a lot of children. Children with amblyopia have poor vision in one eye and without treatment this vision does not develop, meaning they have an increased risk of blindness. Treatment for amblyopia often involves the child being prescribed to wear a patch over their ‘good’ eye for part of the day. This forces the child to use their ‘lazy eye’ which allows the vision to develop. Although this treatment has been found to work really well when used with children under 7 years old, a lot of people find it difficult to adhere to their prescribed treatment. I am exploring strategies to encourage children to complete the treatment.

Dec 15 SD Seeing_Eye_to_Eye

Getting young children to wear eye-patches can be quite difficult!

In our recent paper, myself and my colleagues, Dr Rachel Povey and Jessica Reeves, investigated how effective existing interventions which aimed to increase compliance to patching treatment in children with amblyopia were. We reviewed nine studies in our final sample, with interventions ranging from sticking the patch more tightly to the child’s face, changing aspects of the patching regime, to providing information for the child, family and friends. Our findings indicated that interventions that include an educational element may be most effective in encouraging children to keep wearing their eye-patches to treat amblyopia.


Dr Sarah Dean plans to continue working in this area. In her next study she plans to talk to young children who are undergoing patching treatment to find out more about their experiences of patching. Information from this next study will then help her to develop a new intervention to help children complete their patching treatment.

Read more about Sarah’s review via the British Journal of Ophthalmology’s website:

Dean, S.E., Povey, R. P., & Reeves, J. (in press). Assessing interventions to increase compliance to patching treatment in children with amblyopia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Ophthalmology. doi:10.1136/bjophthalmol-2015-307340


Staffordshire University is home to the Centre for Health Psychology, a centre of excellence for teaching and research in health psychology. For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Dr Sarah Dean reports on presenting her research at the 2015 European Health Psychology Society Conference

Sarah in Cyprus (Sept 15)

Dr Sarah Dean in Cyprus

Dr Sarah Dean reports on her experience presenting her research at the European Health Psychology Society Conference, Cyprus 2015

I have just returned from the 29th EHPS conference on ‘Principles of Behaviour Change in Health and Illness’. This was a great opportunity to hear about research being carried out by health psychologists and practitioners all over the world. As well as presenting my own research on treatment adherence in children with amblyopia or “lazy eye”, I attended 47 short talks, 4 keynote speeches and 3 interactive poster sessions. Topics ranged from organ donation to writing to improve your health. I learnt about ambitious projects to map behaviour change techniques, long term studies that have included certain participants for over 90 years and innovative projects where participants take photos to capture their experiences.

Cyprus EHPS Confernece 2015

The conference’s theme of “Principles of Behaviour Change in Health and Illness”

Presenters at the conference talked of their experiences working with survivors of rape and war in Sierra Leone, working to reduce chronic pain in children in the USA and exploring individuals’ health beliefs in South Africa. Overall the conference demonstrated just how wide reaching the area of health psychology is and the scope of the work that is done to improve health and quality of life the world over. There was also a bit of time left over for sightseeing and enjoying the sun!

For more information on the European Health Psychology Society and its upcoming conferences see: http://www.ehps.net/


Interested in Health Psychology? The School of Psychology, Sport & Exercise at Staffordshire University offers a range of courses in psychology, including a British Psychological Society Accredited Stage 1 Masters in Health Psychology and a Stage 2 accredited Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. Staffordshire University was the first UK university to offer an accredited Health Psychology Masters degree and is home to the Centre for Health Psychology.

Psychology’s Big Bang!

Big Bang 2015

The BPS Stall at the Big Bang Fair

Psychology Staff (Sarah Dean, Louise Humphreys, Erica Lucas and Judy David) and Student Advocates (Liam Howitt, Blessing Edobor and Kiran Ul-Haq) attended the Big Bang UK Young Scientist and Engineers Fair at Birmingham NEC on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th March 2015. This large event aims to promote science, technology, engineering and maths to young people aged 7-19. The StaffsPsych team were part of the British Psychological Society’s stall at the fair and gave live demonstrations to visitors using the department’s Mirror Drawing task, a procedural memory activity!

Big Bang Mirror Drawing 2015

Blessing having a go at drawing via the mirror!

Level 4 student Blessing said “Working at the Big Bang Fair 2015 was an amazing experience I can never forget in a hurry. I was involved in approaching people of diverse age groups to perform a mirror drawing task and at the end explaining why they experienced difficulty in performing the task using Perception and Learning explanation. I felt really pleased to have taken part in this event to promote Psychology and Staffordshire University. I was able to put my communication skills into effective use during the event. I will also like to add that taking part in this event boosted my confidence level because I was given an opportunity to be in charge; to work as an exhibitor, as participants looked up to me for an explanation and I believe my response was well appreciated based on their expressions. Once again it was an amazing experience!!!’’

Mirror drawing (Big Bang 2015)Advocates (Big Bang 2015)

For more information about courses in Psychology at Staffordshire University please click here. Keep up to date with the latest news, events and research updates from the Staffordshire Psychology team via @StaffsPsych.

Rebecca Rushton, MSc in Health Psychology student, reports from the MHPN Conference.

Becky Rushton

Becky Rushton

Becky Rushton, a current MSc student at Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology, reports on presenting her Dissertation research at the recent Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference held in February 2015.

Presenting a poster at the Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference provided me with the opportunity to discuss the research I am currently conducting for my MSc dissertation under the supervision of Dr Sarah Dean (Title: “Adding Personality to the Theory of Planned Behaviour to Predict Cervical Screening Intentions”). [A copy of Becky’s poster can be downloaded at the bottom of this post]

In the forty five minute session I was able to disseminate my research and gain valuable feedback and views on the topic area from other individuals attending the conference. I was also able to view other research posters gaining an insight into a range of areas in Health Psychology research such as pain communication and acquired brain injury, as well as differing research methodologies.

From the poster presentation I have been able to develop skills of producing and presenting a research poster, both of which are new experiences to me. Although daunting at first, presenting a poster at the MHPN conference was a great experience which I would not hesitate to repeat.

The conference provided those in attendance with knowledge of recent research, a platform to share and discuss research either by an oral or poster presentation and an opportunity for a question and answer session on applying for a PhD in Health Psychology – all in one day! The conference was an interesting and inspiring experience which I would thoroughly recommend attending!

Interested in health psychology? Further information about Staffordshire University’s MSc in Health Psychology can be found here.

R Rushton MHPN Poster (March 15)

Becky’s Poster from the MHPN Conference