Dr Alison Owen is recruiting to a new study exploring factors that might be related to tanning behaviours and sunbed use

Dr Alison Owen

HLecturer in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University, Dr Alison Owen, is working in collaboration with Dr Manpal Bhogal at the University of Wolverhampton, looking at some of the factors that might be related to tanning behaviours and sunbed use.

In 2013, researchers Dr Alison Owen, Professor David Clark-Carter and Dr Emily Buckley at Staffordshire University, with Professor Sarah Grogan of Manchester Metropolitan University, carried out research and found that almost a fifth (18.6%) of women had used a sunbed at least once in the past month, with the majority of participants agreeing that a tan looked good (80%), and that tanned people look healthy (71.4%) (Williams, Grogan, Clark-Carter & Buckley, 2013). The current researchers therefore felt that it would be interesting to explore some of the factors behind people feeling positively about tanning behaviours or choosing to use a sunbed.

Dr Owen and Dr Bhogal are combining two areas of psychology in their present research: Health Psychology and Evolutionary Psychology. Their study involves an online questionnaire that will ask participants about indoor sunbed use, attitudes towards tanning and topics such as self-esteem.

If you are over 18 and are interested in participating please complete the online questionnaire – it is open to all people, both those who use sunbeds as well as those who don’t, and just involves you answering a short survey.

If you have any questions about the research then please contact Dr Alison Owen: alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Is there any positive consequence of Covid-19?

Written by Professor David Clark-Carter, Professor of Health Psychology.

Imagine you have energy-sapping fatigue or a long-lasting pain which affects your life.  You have sought medical advice but, even if tests have been conducted, you are left with no diagnosis. 

Psychologists have long recognised that this situation can be linked to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.  However, while psychologists can see that such psychological problems are a perfectly understandable consequence of chronic (i.e. long term) debilitating health conditions, there is a danger of seeing the causal link as going in the other direction.  Accordingly, the chronic condition can be seen as being the consequence of an underlying psychological state rather than the other way around. 

The situation isn’t helped when people around the sufferer, be they family, friends or members of the medical profession, deny that there is a real physical condition.  This, in turn, can lead to an understandable suspicion when psychological interventions are offered as a way to deal with the physical symptoms and lessen the psychological ones.  This may be seen as supporting the notion that the condition is a consequence of a psychological state.  However, that is far from the truth.  Even when a diagnosis of a condition is made, if no medical cure is available psychological interventions could help the sufferer to deal with the physical symptoms. 

By acquiring techniques to deal with physical symptoms, sufferers can feel more in control of their own lives and get away from a feeling of helplessness.  Even when a medical intervention can be prescribed to alleviate the physical symptoms, such as pain killers, these are unlikely to be a long term solution and can have their own problematic side effects.  The pandemic has led to conditions such as long-covid for some people.  Greater awareness of this condition could lead to greater understanding of those with other chronic conditions.


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

How can we measure Self-Directed Ageing Stereotypes in Older Adults?

Dr Sarah Dean and Dr Amy Burton tell us about their Staffordshire University REF 2020 research scheme funded project into self-directed ageing stereotypes in older adults. The research was carried out with research assistant Weyinmi Demeyin and graduate Jessica Reeves.

Dr Sarah Dean and Dr Amy Burton

The population is ageing, but while average life expectancy continues to increase, healthy life expectancy has not necessarily matched this. Health psychologists are interested in health across the lifespan and we wanted to explore health in older adulthood to identify some of the barriers to healthy ageing, specifically those relating to ageing stereotypes.

There are lots of stereotypes surrounding ageing, which are often very negative. If an older adult internalises these negative stereotypes, meaning that they believe them to be true for themselves, this may have a negative effect on their health and wellbeing.

To explore ageing stereotypes in older adults we needed a way of measuring if people had internalised these beliefs. We found that lots of different measures existed and it was unclear which was the best measure to use. Therefore, we carried out a systematic review to identify measures of self-directed ageing stereotype in older adults and to evaluate their quality.

We identified 109 papers for inclusion in our review. Over 25 different terms were used to describe internalisation of ageing stereotypes in older adults. We therefore suggest that for consistency the term “self-directed ageing stereotype” is used and we found 40 different measures of this existed.

The most commonly used measures were the Philadelphia Geriatric Centre Morale Scale Attitude Towards Own Ageing (ATOA) subscale, Ageing Perceptions Questionnaire (APQ) and Attitudes to Ageing Questionnaire. However, although it was the most frequently used, the ATOA was developed to measure morale in older adults and not self-directed ageing stereotypes.

Across measures, poor reporting of psychometric properties made it difficult to assess scale quality and more research is needed to fully assess measures before conclusions can be drawn as to the best tool; however, the Brief-APQ appears to hold most promise. Future research must address this issue before interventions to reduce negative self-directed ageing stereotypes can be developed and fully evaluated. Our research also highlighted the importance of researchers making sure that the measure they have chosen is suitable for their purpose.

We are really pleased that our article has been published in the European Journal of Ageing. The article can be accessed here if you would like to read about the research in more detail (DOI: 10.1007/s10433-020-00574-7).


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych @HealthPsyStaffs and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

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


Opportunity for Band 6 Health Psychology Trainee at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and place on Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University

An exciting opportunity has arisen through collaborations between the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University for a Band 6 trainee health psychologist. The trainee will be based within the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital for two years and will undertake Stage 2 training as a full-time student on the highly successful Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University

The role includes outpatient psychological assessment and therapy contributing towards the psychological component of the inpatient pain management programmes at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The 0.8 w.t.e post presents a unique opportunity for a highly motivated and professional person who has already completed their Stage 1 health psychology training, to complete competences required for their Stage 2 training, directly supported by the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. (Please note that the full-time fees of £6,300 per annum and writing up fees will be payable from the salary provided).

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust (RNOH) is the largest orthopaedic hospital in the UK and is regarded as a leader in the field of orthopaedics both in the UK and world-wide. The RNOH provides a comprehensive range of neuro-musculoskeletal health care, ranging from acute spinal injury or complex bone tumour to orthopaedic medicine and specialist rehabilitation for people with chronic pain. This broad range of services is unique within the NHS.

Dr Rachel Povey, Co-Director of the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology said:

Dr Rachel Povey

“We are very excited about this new collaboration between the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Staffordshire University.  The two-year Band 6 post at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital will be a unique opportunity for a trainee to complete their competences in an applied and stimulating environment, whilst studying with us on the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology.”


For details of how to apply, please go to: https://www.jobs.nhs.uk/xi/vacancy/916050178

Please note that the closing date is: Thursday, 4th June, 2020.

For further information about this exciting opportunity please contact: Dr Rachel Povey, Co-Director of the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University: r.povey@staffs.ac.uk; or Dr Andrew Lucas, Consultant Lead Health Psychologist at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (Andrew.lucas3@nhs.net).


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:

“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.

Funded Bursary for a Trainee on the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology at Staffordshire University

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University is delighted to announce its first funded student bursary for the highly successful Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology programme.

The bursary has been provided by Mid Yorks NHS Trust, is £13K per annum for two years, and will provide a placement for a full-time trainee at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. The trainee will be working primarily with the Consultant Clinical Psychologist on the Paediatric Burns Unit, but opportunities to undertake clinical work with adults will also be available via input into other medical specialties (such as diabetes, chronic pain etc.).

Dr Dorothy Frizelle, Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Head of Service, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust stated: “This is a great opportunity for a health psychology trainee. This placement will provide the trainee with many opportunities to develop a health psychology skill set. This placement will also allow us to pioneer closer links between clinical and health psychology, and help to break down barriers

Further details about the bursary is available here. Please note that the closing date is noon on Thursday, 3rd September, 2015.

For further information about this exciting opportunity please contact Dr Rachel Povey (r.povey@staffs.ac.uk). Further details about Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology can be found here.

Other Postgraduate Funded Opportunities at Staffordshire University

Staffordshire University is also offering four fully funded PhD Studentships in Psychology, including several health psychology-related PhDs, click here for more information about these PhD opportunities.