Dr Amy Burton writes about how participants shared feelings of intense pressure regarding the accepted length of time to breastfeed.
The Conversation UK is a free news service featuring articles written by academics on a range of topics and current affairs. Staffordshire University is a member of The Conversation UK and you can read the full article below:
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.
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 –
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.
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
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.
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 – email@example.com
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.
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.
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:
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:
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the research.
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.