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:
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.
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
By Dr Sarah Dean (Health Psychologist & Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology).
A large amount of research has shown that breastfeeding has several health benefits for both the parent and the child. For example, mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop conditions such as ovarian cancer, breast cancer and diabetes, and breastfeeding protects infants from a range of health problems and illness. Benefits can continue across the lifespan with breastfed individuals having lower rates of obesity and diabetes when they are adolescents and adults (WHO, NHS).
Breastfeeding can also help with bonding and attachment and when women have positive experiences with breastfeeding it can support their mental health.
Lots of people are surprised to learn that the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and that breastfeeding continues alongside appropriate complementary food until the child is aged 2 years and beyond!
Unfortunately, even though a lot of new mums would like to breastfeed their babies, many find it difficult. There are various different things that can make breastfeeding hard, for example, finding it painful, being unsure if baby is getting enough milk, not wanting to breastfeed in public, having a lack of support, feeling worried that other people might have negative views towards breastfeeding and not being able to carry on breastfeeding when going back to work.
At the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, here at Staffordshire University, we are carrying out research to try and understand more about people’s experiences of feeding their children so that we can work towards removing some of these barriers. This will hopefully mean that more women, who want to, can breastfeed for longer and more women could consider breastfeeding as a realistic option.
Staffordshire University Psychology Breastfeeding Research:
We have a growing number of staff and students carrying out research into breastfeeding.
Dr. Amy Burton, Dr. Jenny Taylor, Dr. Alison Owen and myself are currently involved in a study exploring the experiences of mums who are breastfeeding a child over the age of 1 year. In this exciting research mums took pictures of their breastfeeding experiences and were then interviewed about these. So many people wanted to take part that we are also collecting additional pictures and information online! We are currently planning the next phase of the research, where we will develop and evaluate an intervention to help change and improve people’s attitudes towards breastfeeding.
Sarah is working on a joint project with Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology graduate Dr Sarah Thurgood, to explore the experiences that new Mums in Stoke have of feeding their babies. This research is important because the UK has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world and Stoke-on-Trent has low rates compared to other areas of the country. Sarah Thurgood is also working with Jenny and Amy to publish her doctorate research that explored the breastfeeding support experiences of first time mothers.
Alison and MSc by Applied Research Graduate Alex Morley-Hewitt recently published a paper that reviewed research into body image and breastfeeding (click here to view the published paper). They found that women who had negative feelings towards their bodies were less likely to start breastfeeding and those who did were less likely to carry on breastfeeding compared to women with more positive feelings towards their bodies.
Another Masters student, on our MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology course, Lucy Pudsey, is working with Sarah and Jenny to write up her dissertation research that explored the experiences of women who breastfeed a child for over 12 months.
We are keen for more of our UG and PG students to join us in researching breastfeeding!
“I really enjoyed attending the Midlands Health Psychology Conference in Derby this year and am grateful to the University for providing me with the opportunity. I found the research presentations most beneficial, as they were a great way of demonstrating the breadth of topics covered by Health Psychology and helped me to understand the research process from beginning to end. The presentations gave me some exciting ideas for my own project next year. It was a great opportunity to network with fellow students and Health Psychologists, who offered tips and peer support whilst completing my own professional training. This conference is a must if you are considering a career in Health Psychology. I will look forward to returning again next year hopefully to present some of my own work!”
“We really enjoy attending the MHPN conference each year. For many of our MSc students it is their first experience of an academic conference and they gain a lot from listening to the presentations and chatting to the delegates. This year former MSc student Jess Boot presented a poster of her dissertation work, which was well received and has hopefully encouraged some of our current students to consider presenting their work next year. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference!”
MSc Course Co-Directors Dr Sarah Dean & Dr Gemma HURST
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Dr Sarah Dean, Dr Jennifer Taylor, Dr Gemma Hurst and Dr Andrew Edmonds from the Psychology department at Staffordshire University are running a short introductory research methods course called “Research Ready”.
The course will introduce attendees to quantitative and qualitative research, covering topics such as: research design, research questions, qualitative analysis (thematic) and quantitative analysis (t-tests, correlations and ANOVAs using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS)).
The course will be delivered over two days, with day one focusing on research design and qualitative analysis, and day two quantitative data analysis. You have the option of signing up for a single day or both days. The course will be delivered in an interactive format with plenty of opportunities to ‘have a go’ and practice what you learn with friendly and experienced staff to support you!
The course takes place on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th August 2019 and will be suitable for those who are completely new to research methods or for those simply wanting a refresher. Perhaps you have just graduated and feel as though you need a refresher before starting postgraduate study? Or you may be a current student who would find this helpful as revision over the summer? Maybe you have got no research experience but would like to learn to develop and expand your research knowledge and future opportunities? Whilst the course will be delivered by Psychology staff experienced in teaching research methods, the course will also be appropriate for those within other disciplines. Everyone is welcome!
The cost of attending the full two-day course is £250 and for attendance at one day is £175. You will receive a certificate of attendance and light refreshments will be provided.
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!
“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”
“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.
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!”
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.
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.
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!
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