Kristan is the runner-up for the BPS Undergraduate Project Prize

Our undergraduate student, Kristan Howourth has been awarded Runner-Up for The British Psychological Society's Psychobiology Section Undergraduate Project Prize.

This is a national competition held by The British Psychological Society (BPS) for recognising outstanding research conducted by undergraduate students in the area of Psychobiology. Supervised by Professor Graham Finlayson, Kristan conceived her own study idea which was inspired by her experience and observations of fellow students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award meant she was able to present her research at the British Psychological Society Conference 2021.

Project title: “Exploring the role of personality traits and coping style in the relationship between perceived stress and susceptibility to illness during the Covid-19 pandemic”

Abstract: Throughout University, students are vulnerable to excessive amounts of stress, without the additional stressor of living through a global pandemic. Psychoneuroimmunology research has deemed stress as a huge determinant in the pathology of disease. Personality and coping styles are two psychological dimensions that influence an individual’s reactivity to stress and so could play a role in illness vulnerability. 85 students completed four validated questionnaires on stress, personality traits, coping styles and illness vulnerability. Results showed that participants high in neuroticism and low conscientiousness reported higher perceived stress. Neuroticism also predicted illness, showing higher scores in neuroticism predicted higher scores in illness frequency. Avoidant coping was the most maladaptive coping style as it was associated with increased perceived stress and illness, while problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping appeared to be unrelated to both. However closer investigation into the components of emotion-focused coping showed it has maladaptive and adaptive qualities. Venting was positively associated with perceived stress and illness whereas positive cognitive reappraisals (PCR) had negative associations. This study was the first to demonstrate that PCR moderate the relationship between stress and illness; suggesting that student’ personality and coping styles influence how frequently they experience illness. Therefore, those with personality traits that make them vulnerable to stress could be given an option to improve their coping abilities (increase PCR and reducing avoidant coping) to reduce stress and prevent illness.

Congratulations Kristan!