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Wellbeing in contexts

Good physical, mental, social and cultural health and wellbeing are vital for a thriving society. Researchers within the ‘Wellbeing in contexts’ theme seek to investigate and, where possible, intervene to ameliorate threats to health and wellbeing in contemporary society. Key to this work is recognition of the importance of context to the meaning of – and potential impact of threats to – health and wellbeing. Research within this theme includes a focus on:

  • Engaging the public and health care professionals with mass media health interventions designed to change behaviours (e.g. on anti-microbial stewardship, HIV testing uptake)
  • The impact of stressful work contexts on individuals and their families (e.g. emergency responders), their wellbeing and support, including the role of technology enhanced interventions
  • Anxiety and stress in particular contexts and how we might provide better mental-health support (e.g. for perinatal anxiety; COVID anxiety)
  • Enhancing physical and mental health care provision for marginalised groups (e.g. for Trans people)

Projects within the theme:

Assessing the health, wellbeing and welfare of the Emergency Responders Community in the UK

Project team: Gini Harrison, Graham Pike, Helena King (OU), Marie-Louise Sharp (KCL), Nicola Fear (KCL)

Those working in emergency responder (ER) roles may be at an increased risk of adverse mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Regardless of particular service, the increased risk to mental health and wellbeing may be due to the nature of the work, which involves frequent exposure to potentially distressing situations, accident scenes, and threats to safety for themselves and others. These high stress activities may be compounded by intense workplace stressors, such as excessive workloads, staffing cuts, unpredictable work, inadequate support and increasing social accountability. There is a general dearth of research in this area, particularly a lack of collated data concerning ERs mental health and wellbeing, and little is known about the nature and effectiveness of mental health and wellbeing support that is available to ERs and their families. This project addresses these concerns by identifying mental health and wellbeing research (completed and ongoing) across the emergency services, volunteer roles and their families, through a systematic review of UK, international and grey literature. In tandem, a comprehensive landscape review was conducted to assess the current mental health and wellbeing-related service provision and practice across the UK through stakeholder interviews and desktop-based research which investigated information available on the internet.

Affect in Mass Media Health Interventions

Project owner: Darren Langdridge

The project has focused on the development and application of a methodology designed to facilitate the examination of affective content within mass media public health interventions. The method came about in part as a result of a HEIF funded project on using art as a pathway to impact (Langdridge, Gabb & Lawson, 2019) and was then formally developed and deployed in Health Protection Scotland funded work on antimicrobial resistance (Langdridge et al., 2019). Most recently, the method has been refined further and applied to an HIV testing dataset (Langdridge et al., 2020).

Integration of Care for Trans people

Project team: ICTA, Naomi Moller

ICTA is a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funded study which aims to improve health care for trans adults in the NHS. Specifically, the project will provide information on how to develop effective models for the health services needed to support trans adults before, during and after they are seen by NHS-commissioned specialist gender identity services. The focus is on effective integration of care – or how to make health care more ‘joined up’. The research team consists of a unique collaboration of health services researchers, research psychologists and specialists in sexuality, gender and health with specialist clinical providers and third sector organisations. The project will involve an active role for a group of trans service users as well as third sector organisations that work with various trans communities. The research will employ principles and practices of co-production. 

A glimpse into the realm of police wellbeing charities

Project team: Helena King (OU), Gini Harrison, Graham Pike

Within the portfolio of wellbeing support available for police are those services provided by charities. Little is known about the overall contribution these charities play, or the public value they deliver as a sector. This project used qualitative scoping methods that aimed to gain a broad understanding of the role charities play in supporting police wellbeing in England and Wales. It provided insight into the different types of charity, their origins and approach to delivering services, the current status of the sector, the policing need for services, and challenges faced.

Covid, catastrophising and anxiety

Project owner: Lara Frumkin

This project is focused on the psychological factors that influenced public responses to Covid-19 assessing the relationship between anxiety, catastrophising (helplessness, rumination and beliefs about a dark future) and ethnocentrism. Initially the research measured public responses in the days before the UK lockdown and carried on for the six weeks of lockdown. Results show that some aspects of catastrophising are related to higher levels of anxiety irrespective of people’s level of vulnerability to the virus.  Further research is building on this to assess whether use of social media and belief about risk increases levels of anxiety and to determine if self-efficacy and focus on positive aspects of Covid-19 (more time with family, less time commuting) can reduce it.

Making sense of Lockdown rules

Project owner: Naomi Moller

This study is based on data collected in the first COVID-19 lockdown on people’s sense-making around lockdown rules in New Zealand and the UK. The study used a story-telling method called Qualitative Story Completion with the aim of examining social understandings that shed light on how people excused behaviours that break or bend lockdown rules or alternatively the social understandings used to police such rules. The aim of the analysis (ongoing) is to provide insights that can improve public health messaging in future.

The Open Perinatal Anxiety and Worry Support

Project owner: Gini Harrison

The Open Perinatal Anxiety and Worry Support (OpenPAWS) project is an ongoing research project, investigating women’s experiences of anxiety in the perinatal period (i.e. during pregnancy and in the first year post childbirth). The aim is to better understand women’s experiences of anxiety triggers and support (e.g. Harrison and Moore, 2020); and to use this information (along with other research in this area) to provide evidence-based information and support online. As part of this work, we have produced an open access website providing information and evidence-based screening tools to both women experiencing perianal anxiety, and the healthcare professionals who support them. This work has also recently been extended to look at perinatal wellbeing during COVID-19 context, and to better understand the cognitive and social factors that may either exacerbate or protect against mental health issues during the pandemic.

Games for Health & mHealth Apps for Police & Blue Light Personnel

Project owner: Graham Pike

Previous research has reported adverse health outcomes for emergency services personnel (ESP), outcomes that research more broadly has shown can be improved using a gamification and mobile health (mhealth) apps approach. We conducted a review of research on gamification and mhealth apps for ESP that had been published in the last 19 years using 6 major research databases. The results demonstrated that virtually no relevant research has been published, suggesting a significant gap in the evidence base of an approach that could potentially have significant benefits for the health of ESP.