Health Psychology Research Group

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

Our mission is to develop and apply psychological theory and methods to understanding and improving wellbeing and global health across the lifespan.

Our global research and teaching spans from pre-conception to older age and focuses on:

  • studying health-related beliefs, emotions, and behaviours (e.g. blood and organ donation, medication adherence, breastfeeding, healthy eating and exercise, fear of cancer recurrence, self-management)
  • developing programmes to improve health-related outcomes, decision making, and communication
  • maintaining strong links with practice (e.g., working with healthcare professionals/NHS/charities) to ensure our research and teaching support the development of evidence-based health psychology practices
  • providing health psychology training from UG to doctorate level (MSc in Health Psychology (Stage 1) and our new Doctoral Training Programme in Health Psychology (Stage 2).

 The ultimate impact of this mission is the development and application of programmes to change or enhance healthcare practices, communication, and management across the lifespan.

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.

Wendy Maltinsky is working with multidisciplinary teams where digital technology is integrated with behavioural science using a co-design approach. The use of digital avatars incorporating biofeedback and sonification will be used to facilitate behavioural change from clinic to community settings. Read news about this work.

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 Psychology Kindergarten.

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: behavioural medicine and behavioural change with individuals and clinicians and as applied to areas of global health and digital health.

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: 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. 

Georgia Laverick: My PhD is looking at how patients with Crohn's Disease understand the information they can access, and how they use the available information to make decisions about their treatment.

Amaeze Madukah: I am intersted in culturally competent health behaviour change interventions.

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

Kayleigh Maxwell

Placements: TestCard, a healthcare company specialising in at-home urine testing solutions; and Live UTI Free, a patient advocacy organisation.

Main area of research: Understanding the patient experience of living with recurrent or chronic UTI, and the barriers to effective healthcare for this patient population.

 

Danica Cassar

Danica Cassar

Placement: Willingness Team in Malta – is a interdisciplinary clinic focusing on physical and mental health. I form part of the health clinic in which I observe and contribute to team meetings, deliver training in health psychology and also carry out interventions with clients as part of my placement.

Main area of research: Danica is interested in working with patients with long term conditions such as fibromyalgia and cancer. She is also interested in Sleep Hygiene and sleep related habit as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

 

Catherine White

Catherine White

Placement: I am a first-year student on the Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology and my placement is with NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Main area of research: I am interested in self-management and behaviour change in relation to long-term conditions. I am also interested in cancer screening and reducing health inequalities.

 

Katie Heslop

Kaleigh Maxwell

Placement: Action in Mind, which is a Stirling based mental health charity. During this placement I have supported those with a diagnosed mental health illness to improve aspects of their physical health.

Main research area: I am currently conducting research in the area of substance use.

 

Sarah Keith

Sarah Keith

Placement: South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and I work within the Medical Psychology team across a range of services including Long COVID, spinal cord injuries, and cancer.

Main area of research: My research is focussed on Long COVID.

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

Professor Gozde Ozakinci

Health and Behaviour Change
University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland

gozde.ozakinci@stir.ac.uk