Health Psychology Research Group

We are a thriving, internationally recognised health psychology group specialising in research, training, interdisciplinary work and working to improve public health and healthcare systems. 

We lead the University Health and Behaviour Research Programme which is part of the broader Living Well Research Theme. We are committed to interdisciplinary research e.g., working with colleagues in Health Sciences and Sport and the Chief Scientist’s Office Nursing, Midwifery and Applied Health Professionals Research Unit (NMAHP-RU).

Our mission is to develop and apply psychological theory and methods to:

  • identify determinants of health behaviours and develop behaviour change interventions (e.g., blood and organ donation, medication adherence, breastfeeding, healthy eating and exercise)
  • improve the quality of health-related decision making and patient-professional communication

Our global research spans from pregnancy to older age and explores illnesses such as diabetes, pain, cancer, asthma, and obesity.

We deliver accredited professional training in Health Psychology via our MSc in Health Psychology (Stage 1) and our new Doctoral Training Programme in Health Psychology (Stage 2).

We work closely with patients, healthcare staff and the public to ensure that our research makes a difference to practice in order to improve health and wellbeing.

Exercising and healthy eating concept: overhead view of rainbow colored dumbbells, jump rope, water bottle, towel, tape measure and healthy fresh organic vegetables and fruits

Examples of our research activities

Health Behavioural Change

Our MAP (motivation, action, prompts) project developed and tested a novel programme to train health professionals delivering diabetes care across Scotland – now being rolled out across health promotion teams.

Multidiscipline collaboration

Professor Ronan O’Carroll is collaborating with researchers and fish farmers in Vietnam. It is anticipated that this work will reduce antibiotic over-use and resistance in farm treated fish and introduce a vaccination programme - see our recent paper published in the journal Antibiotics. This work is funded by an International Development Research Centre Award.

Dr. Pamela Rackow is working with the company Game Doctor (led by Dr Carla Brown; ) to develop a mobile game to educate young people (8-16) on COVID-19. The game will contain 2-3 mini-games on vaccine/drug development and viral transmission, that will improve knowledge in these areas but also empower young people to follow government guidance. This project is funded by Innovate UK.

Facilities

We have a purpose-built health laboratory including a meeting space and four private testing rooms. The laboratory is well equipped with facilities including a treadmill, heart rate monitoring equipment, a weighing station, interview rooms with one-way mirrors and stress induction equipment. We have access to considerable further equipment within the department including a gait mat, mobile EEG and eye-tracker. Equipment is regularly reviewed and updated to meet changing research needs.

We also have access to the University of Stirling’s state of the art sport facilities, which received the UK Sports University of the Year award of the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2020!

For our work in younger populations, we have access to a unique on-site Kindergarten, which is fully equipped with specific research rooms with one-way screens to allow tasks and observations of children’s play, decision making, and interactions in their familiar environment. See more about the .

Research team

Current staff members

Purva Abhyankar: informed and shared decision making about healthcare options, self-management and behaviour change in long-term conditions, health-services research.

Line Caes: childhood pain experience, parent-child interactions, coping with childhood chronic illnesses.

Elaine Cameron: I am interested in medication behaviours such as treatment adherence and prescribing in long-term conditions, antibiotic stewardship, and global health. I have expertise in evaluating intervention fidelity, and mixed methods and qualitative research.

Rachel Crockett: population level interventions to change health behaviours focussing on physical activity and healthy eating, mobility and healthy ageing, global health and food security.

Sinéad Currie: the application of health psychology into maternity care.

Hannah Durand: shared- and self-management of chronic illness across the lifespan, particularly treatment adherence and pain management.

Wendy Maltinsky: health psychology and behavioural change training as well as research and education in diabetes.

Lesley McGregor: cancer screening, health communication and informed health-related decision making

Ronan O’Carroll: behavioural medicine, organ transplantation, cancer screening, medication adherence.

Gozde Ozakinci (joining in September): I study community-based and citizen-led approaches to physical activity and health promotion. Another line of work I focus on is cancer survivorship and specifically fears of cancer recurrence.

Pamela Rackow: My research is concerned about individuals and their community and how their well-being and health can be improved by applying state of the art intervention strategies.

Vivien Swanson: Psychological wellbeing and models of behaviour change in relation to promoting health behaviours and coping with long-term conditions.

PhD students

Claire Jouanny: My research aims to inform an intervention to raise awareness of early prolapse symptoms and prompt women to seek help sooner. 

Jordan Miller: Understanding and overcoming psychological barriers to organ donation.

Ilaria Pina: My research interests involve ageing, movement behaviours and their relationship with health outcomes, particularly physical activity and skeletal muscle changes in older adults.

Emma Scott-Smith: Using visual methodologies to understand identity and communication in persons with long-term chronic pain conditions.

Rebecca Skinner: I am interested in participant centred research especially in chronic conditions.

Hannah Welshman: I am interested in how women and their partners plan their pregnancies and how to optimise health before conception.

Professional doctorate students

Information to come

Honorary members

Stephan Dombrowski: behaviour change interventions, behavioural and weight loss maintenance, health care service use for acute conditions

Lindsay Wilson: Neuropsychology, functional outcome, and quality of life after brain injury

International links

Drs. Vivien Swanson and Wendy Maltinsky travelled to St Helena in 2019 to delivering MAP training for health and social care teams in remote areas.

Dr. Line Caes is working with collaborators in Ireland and Canada, to adjust a Canadian-based peer mentoring programme for adolescents with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis to meet the needs of Irish adolescents. This work is funded by the Irish Health Research Board.

Dr Rachel Crocket is working with colleagues at the South African MRC, and the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand to explore the relation between food insecurity and psychological distress in African Townships. To achieve this, the project aims to analyse data collected from the two socially deprived areas of Cape Town (Khayelitsha) and Johannesburg (Soweto). It is anticipated that increasing our understanding of the impact of food insecurity on psychological outcomes will contribute to the development of effective interventions to tackle food insecurity.        

Dr Pamela Rackow is working with colleagues at West Virginia University, USA, to develop and adapt a parent-youth teamwork intervention to improve medication adherence among adolescents with asthma. There is currently no intervention in the UK NHS that facilitates the transfer of self-management responsibilities from parents to adolescents, that also targets peer support. This research project is funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).

Independent researchers

Stirling Psychology offers a vibrant and supportive environment for independent research fellows working on any aspect within our research groups, and we are always keen to welcome new members.

Join us at Stirling

Information for teaching and training

We are uniquely well situated at the intersection of world leading research and evidence-based practice to support researchers and trainees at all stages of professional development. Members of the team continue to be instrumental in driving the development of the profession of health psychology profession in Scotland. Please talk to us if you would like more information.

For instance, Stirling has the largest health psychology team and the longest-running health psychology programme in Scotland. We have supported over 450 students in the first stage of health psychology training.

To hear about our MSc Health Psychology course from the perspective of our students watch the following YouTube video they created as an optional extracurricular activity.

We provide supervision of Stage 2 professional training in Health Psychology via the Professional Doctorate Health Psychology Programme, or via the BPS independent route.

Furthermore, we offer doctorate level supervision for those who already hold their Stage 2 qualification through our Top-up Health Psychology Programme.

If you want to find out more about the possible career opportunities within Health Psychology, the Division of Health Psychology have created a Careers Series

Beyond the specific Health Psychology courses developed by our team, we are also involved in various other courses, such as

  • the Universities of Stirling and Dundee  for Clinical Associates in Applied Psychology, funded by NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
  • Dr Vivien Swanson is currently Programme Lead for Health Psychology at NES, with overall responsibility for training health professionals in health psychology approaches. NES is the national training body for health professional education in Scotland.

Contact us

Line Caes

Lecturer of Psychology
Health and Behaviour Change
University of Stirling Stirling, FK9 4LA Scotland

+44 (0)1786 467639
Line.caes@stir.ac.uk