Using photographs to explore what quality of life means to assisted living residents.

Dr Amy Burton

Dr Amy Burton has recently published a paper detailing a project conducted by one of our graduates as part of their MSc Health Psychology.

Riana Mansfield’s project was supervised by Dr Amy Burton and explored assisted living residents’ experiences of quality of life.

Assisted living is a popular form of housing care for older adults. Residents benefit from their own living spaces within a supportive environment including a range of services such as domiciliary care, health care and social activities.

Understanding quality of life for these older adults is important for ensuring assisted living residences provide the best possible service. However, little work had been conducted to uncover what quality of life means to older adults or how it is experienced on a day to day basis.

Riana’s project used a unique approach of collecting photographs taken by seven assisted living residents to better understand their lives. The residents collected images that captured their own personal meanings and experiences of quality of life. Riana then discussed these pictures with the residents through research interviews.

Stock photo from Pixabay of a woman holding a camera to take a photo.

A form of qualitative analysis called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was then used to identify common themes and experiences in the residents’ accounts. Riana’s work highlighted three themes that helped to explain and understand quality of life in assisted living.

  1. Firstly, the residents believed it was important to have continuity in their lives and found new ways to continue with activities that they enjoyed or were important to them prior to assisted living.
  2. Secondly, they discussed how social events and opportunities to make new friends within assisted living were essential for ensuing good quality of life. Several enjoyed supporting other less confident residents to be part of the community.
  3. Finally, the residents spoke about the supportive environment provided by the assisted living facility. This helped them to feel safe and provided access to services and support that would aid them as they became older.

Riana and Amy’s paper concludes by making recommendations to enable assisted living facilities to help their residents maintain good quality of life. These included: supporting residents to continue with valued and meaningful activities following a move to assisted living; setting up peer support buddy systems to assist new residents with becoming part of the community and to engage them in social activities; and discussing quality of life with residents and tailoring care and support to reflect the needs and wants of individual residents.

The research paper has been published in Geriatric Nursing and can be accessed here if you would like to read about the research in more detail (

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:

Children’s drawings of their coronavirus experience

Dr Richard Jolley writes about recent coviddrawings research and how you could help!

How has the current coronavirus situation changed the lives of children? What would the children themselves tell us?

The current coronavirus situation presents a unique opportunity to discover the diverse characteristics and consequences of a pandemic upon children. When children are facing changes and challenges to their lives it’s important to allow them to communicate how they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes they’re happy to talk about their experience, but sometimes they prefer to express themselves in other more creative ways, such as making a picture.

Dr Richard Jolley

Since June of this year a group of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University have been asking children and parents across the UK to help us understand how children are experiencing the coronavirus situation through their drawings. It is being led by myself, Dr Richard Jolley, with co-investigators Dr Sarah Rose, Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Romina Vivaldi. It has been funded by the School of Life Sciences and Education (LSE). This has enabled us not only to purchase a dedicated website and database for the project but also to employ a final year student (Gina Halliwell) as a research assistant to manage the day-to-day running of the project. You may like to read Gina’s own blog on her research experience on the project!

So what is involved in the project?

Parents are directed to the website where all the information about the project and what they need to do is provided. We even have made a video just for children to explain the project! In essence, children are asked to think about their life since the coronavirus entered the UK, how it might have changed their lives, how they have felt about that, and then to draw a picture about it. There is a comments box provided if the child wishes to write about their drawing (potentially with the parent’s help).  A parent then takes a picture of the drawing and uploads it to the website.

So, what themes might you expect children to show in their drawings? The highly transferable nature of the virus? Or perhaps the behaviours we have all been asked to do to limit the risk of transmission – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolation? Then, there is the psychosocial impact upon the children, particularly the isolation from friends during the lockdown. Will children show psychological reactions of fear, sadness or loneliness? And what about the changes in the routine of their lives, such as disruption to school attendance and different family dynamics at home? Has this led to boredom and restlessness, or presented an opportunity to spend more time on activities and family they love? Despite the challenges the current situation has brought children we are seeing children communicate more positive aspects through their drawings. 

What themes can you see in this drawing?

Whatever themes the children communicate we are interested in whether they vary across the ages of the sample, which might indicate that developmentally children have experienced the current situation differently. Also, will there be differences in the themes communicated between boys and girls? In addition to age and gender, we will be exploring whether the themes vary according to a set of demographic and situational variables. For instance, which country the child lives in, whether they live in a rural or urban environment, if either parent is a key worker, and whether the child returned to school – all of these could have an impact on how the child draws their experience of the coronavirus. In addition, we ask the parents to indicate on a scale the extent in which the family health has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and ask the child to choose from a series of faces how they have felt about their life in these times.

Would you like to participate?

And here is the good news – we are very keen to recruit more children and parents! If you are reading this blog as a parent of a child between 4 and 14 years, and you live in the UK, do you think your child would like to draw their own experience of the coronavirus situation? In which case please have a look at the project’s website If you have any further questions please contact the project email address and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.

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.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Sian (BSc Psychology & Child Development including a Foundation Year)

As part of our new series of StaffsPsych Graduate Success Stories, we are pleased to introduce Sian who graduated from our BSc Psychology & Child Development course in 2015 after also successfully completing a Foundation Year.

Sian introduces herself and talks about her experiences studying Psychology and Child Development at Staffordshire University, and tells us how her degree has helped her  pursue a PhD in Psychology:

Please tell us a little about your background before coming to study at Staffordshire University:

When I left school at 16 years old, I trained to be a hairdresser and worked full time for several years. I decided to have a career change in my mid-twenties, so I completed an Open University course to help me get back into education.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I was interested in child psychology and Staffordshire University was one of the only universities to offer this type of course.

Furthermore, Staffordshire University gave me the option to complete a Foundation Year as I had taken extended time out of education. I think this was beneficial as this year gave me the tools to succeed at University.

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

The staff in the Psychology Department were very approachable which made my time at Staffordshire University more enjoyable. In addition, I gained training in all the latest equipment and software related to psychology research. The Science Centre, where the Psychology department is based, has state-of-the-art equipment that is available to all students.

What was the biggest challenge(s) that you overcame whilst studying at Staffs?

I think the biggest challenge that I faced at university was time management. I had a young child and trying to juggle all my commitments was difficult sometimes. However, I found planning my timetable in advance really helped.

What have you done since leaving Staffs (e.g. volunteering, working, travelling…)? How did your course help you with this?

After graduating, I spent a short time working as a research assistant investigating the effects of watching television on children’s creative thinking. Subsequently to that, I worked for Leeds University, on a longitudinal smoking prevention project investigating adolescents’ views on smoking. Currently, I am undertaking a PhD looking at improving eating behaviours in high school students using the social norms approach.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future include conducting more research in to children’s eating behaviours and potentially teaching in Psychology.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Staffordshire University offers a supportive learning environment which will give you transferrable skills that can be used in any job setting. The advice I would give to someone applying to Staffordshire University is embrace every opportunity offered to you. The Psychology Department at Staffordshire University offer a fantastic curriculum with additional opportunities outside of the course for learning.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at Staffs?

My time at Staffordshire University has given me so many skills that are transferable to an array of different jobs and I am really grateful for being given the opportunity to study at Staffs.

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.

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:

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates – Andrew (BSc Psychology & Counselling)

As part of our new series of StaffsPsych Graduate  Success Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Andrew who graduated from our BSc Psychology & Counselling course in 2017.

Andrew introduces himself and talks about his experience studying Psychology and Counselling at Staffordshire University, and tells us how his degree has helped him pursue his dream career as a Health Psychologist:

Before coming to Staffs, I lived in the small southern town of Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Up until the time I was going to university open days, I had not travelled any further north than Northampton, so coming to Staffordshire was quite the trek initially! I studied Biology, English Literature, Chemistry, and of course Psychology at A Levels, and fell in love with the subject. Not only because I find what makes people tick so interesting, but because of it could offer me. Like many young people, I have struggled with my mental health. By being a person to lean on for my friends back in school, as well as going to seek therapy myself, I knew that pursuing a career in Psychology was my calling.

What attracted you to studying Psychology at Staffordshire University?

I wanted to study psychology, but to also specialise in counselling and therapeutic skills. As one of the only universities in the country at the time that was offering a counselling specific course at a bachelors level, Staffs was an easy pick. After going to an open day, seeing all of the equipment and facilities on offer, and feeling so welcomed by both staff and current students, I knew that I could work well there (and I did!).

What were the best parts of your experience at Staffs?

Where do I begin! Of course, on the campus life side of things I enjoyed heading out to the student union bar with my friends. I got involved with anything and everything that I could, including setting up societies, running liberation networks, and being a part of student projects where I could. But mostly I am proud of what I achieved, and ultimately getting the best degree I could, graduating with a 1st Class.

What was the biggest challenge that you overcame whilst studying at Staffs?

Putting myself first and being confident in my abilities. I have always been a people pleaser, and while that has its benefits, often times my tendency to help others would come at a detriment to my own wellbeing. By going through the process of earning a degree and getting the much-needed support from my personal tutors and peers, I developed an appreciation for being much more introspective, and realising that my needs needed to be met too. Thanks to that, my confidence in myself and what I can offer as a graduate is at an all-time high, and I do not think I would have turned out like this had it not been for the course I chose, and the people who helped me along the way.

What have you done since leaving Staffs?

I came right back! As someone pursuing a career in Psychology I require further training, and it just made sense to return to Staffs to do just that. I am currently studying the MSc Health Psychology course which I love! It has been a slight detour from my initial counselling path, but I could not be happier studying in an area that will enable me to make change, helping as many people as I can to live a healthier and happier life.

What are your plans for the future?

Ultimately, I wish to reach that doctoral level, and I plan on doing a Health Psychology Professional Doctorate sometime in the future to achieve that. In doing so, I hope to one day open my own practice, working with people to achieve their health goals and reach the best self that they can be.

At the moment however, I plan on slowing down after 4 straight years of intense studying. I have a volunteer position set up at a local health and wellbeing service back home, and I have applied for a casual research assistant role to keep me in the world of psychology but will allow me to relax for a few months.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to study Psychology at Staffordshire University?

Do not think that just because you do not know the ins and outs of every theory you’ve come across that you are not worthy to study a psychology degree. Be true to yourself, and let the university know what studying psychology would mean to you. If you are passionate about the area and want to use it in a way to help people, be expressive about it. If you just find the topic interesting and want to know more purely for your own gain, be expressive about that too. Good luck!

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at Staffs?

I would not trade my time being at Staffs for anything, and I hope that whoever is reading this will consider making Staffs their home for the next 3 years. I am certainly #ProudToBeStaffs

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.

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: