Effective delivery of health messages and health care in the 21st century necessitates a high degree of ‘psychological awareness’. It’s important to understand what drives and motivates people, if we are to achieve our aim to be a healthier society. Using a psychological approach to health adds another dimension to existing healthcare provision. It involves applying psychological theories, methods and research to understanding how to promote wellbeing, improve health, prevent and treat illness and disability, analyse and improve the health care system and formulate health policy.
Students on this course will understand and critically evaluate the theoretical basis of health psychology and apply this knowledge to understanding health, health behaviours and health care issues.
The course has a strong practical focus. It includes contributions from health care practitioners and where possible, the opportunity to carry out a placement in a health care setting.
A minimum of a second class honours degree (2.1 preferred) or equivalent in a relevant subject. Applicants without these formal qualifications but with significant appropriate/relevant work/life experience are encouraged to apply.
English language requirements
If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 (5.5 in all bands).
If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard.
Our range of pre-sessional courses.
Modes of study
MSc: one year; Postgraduate Diploma: two semesters
MSc: two years; Postgraduate Diploma: four semesters
Course start date
Structure and content
The course comprises the following modules in the Autumn Semester:
- Perspectives in Health Psychology: Introduces and provides a context for different theoretical approaches within health psychology. It promotes critical understanding of the relationship between biological, psychological and social approaches to health and illness, health behaviours and health care in relation to specific topics such as stress, cardiovascular disease and pain.
- Applications of Health Psychology: Communication, Systems and Context: Helps you develop critical understanding of the way health care is delivered in the National Health Service (NHS) and other settings. You will evaluate psychological interventions and examine the relationship between health care providers and clients. The module will develop understanding of the professional role of the health psychologist, multidisciplinary working and sensitivity towards ethical/professional issues.
- Quantitative Analysis: Develops understanding of quantitative analysis. It includes principles of literature review, experimental design and data collection and offers both study and practical experience of statistical analysis to enable you to carry out a piece of empirical research to a publishable standard.
The following modules are taken in the Spring Semester:
- Qualitative Analysis: Develops understanding of qualitative analysis, such as thematic analysis and phenomenological analysis.
- Individual, Social and Cultural Differences: Develops awareness and critical appraisal of the influence of individual psychological, social, cultural and biological differences on health, illness, health care provision and usage. Topics include personality, lifespan, gender and cultural factors which influence health and health behaviours (such as alcohol use and sexual behaviour).
- Approaches to Illness, Disability and Coping: Applies health psychology theories and models to understanding specific illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It also includes an evaluation of factors which promote wellbeing in people with acute or chronic illness or disability and the role of interventions to improve wellbeing.
- Research Project (MSc only): In this module, you will carry out your own supervised empirical research project in an area of health or health care which interests you, allowing you to integrate theoretical approaches with practical research methods and techniques learned. The investigation is conducted and reported to publishable standard.
Delivery and assessment
The modules are taught in two- to three-hour seminars which include lectures, workshops, and practical or experiential sessions. You need to complete and pass the seven modules above to be awarded the MSc Psychology Applied to Health. Assessment is by formal exams and coursework (including oral presentations, essays, group work and critical reviews of research).
Dr Vivien Swanson
70 percent of research in Psychology at Stirling was recognised as being of a quality that is internationally recognised in terms of originality, significance and rigour in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise.
- Strong experiential focus
- Grounded in research evidence
- Research active and enthusiastic team, based in Centre for Health Behaviour Change
This course is for those without a recognised degree in psychology, or non-psychologists. It prepares you to work in many related areas - from health education or health promotion to community-based health improvement projects. The course is also relevant for the personal development of professionals already working in health.
You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.
A small number of School of Natural Sciences (Psychology) funded bursaries are available to contribute towards tuition fees.
information on possible sources of funding