Health and Social Psychology

Image of a couple waling through the woods with a dog.

The Health and Social Psychology research group conducts research focusing on a number of interrelated areas including:

  • Understanding and changing health behaviours
  • Effects of stress on health and behaviour
  • Use of medical technologies
  • Qualitative understanding of health
  • Mindfulness, coping and resilience
  • Biological influences on health
  • Patient safety
  • Understanding the development of wellbeing and resilience.
  • Stereotyping and performance outcomes

Working closely with the Bradford Institute for Health Research, the group also conducts research on implicit attitudes, prejudicial attitudes, causal reasoning, social category combination (multiple categorisation), and controlled processing in a range of behaviours.

Ongoing Projects

Below are examples of projects conducted within the Health and Social Psychology Research Group.

Healthcare workforce wellbeing, burnout and patient care delivery

This theme of work represents a group of projects led by Dr Judith Johnson and run in collaboration with the Bradford Institute for Health Research. These projects have been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Society and College of Radiographers and NHS England, and collaborators include Professor Rebecca Lawton and Professor Daryl O’Connor.

The overarching goal of this work is to understand how the healthcare workforce can be better supported to deliver safer, higher quality patient care. Projects have 1) established the presence of a consistent link between higher burnout and poor patient care; 2) identified targets for burnout-reduction interventions to focus on and 3) tested the value of training interventions for improving staff wellbeing.

MindMate 2U – acceptability and feasibility study of a digital resource for young people

This research project was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and was led by Dr Siobhan Hugh-Jones at the University of Leeds.  The project collaborators were: The University of Leeds, mHabitat, CommonRoom and Thompson Brand Partners.  Adopting a strong user-design approach, our aim was to develop and pilot test (for feasibility, acceptability and efficacy) a school-based, digitally supported, guided self-help intervention (now called MindMate 2U) for young people. 

We were interested in the extent to which evidence-based psychoeducation (spanning knowledge, skills and strategies) was acceptable and useful to young people in helping them to feel more able to be back in control, and de-escalate any emergent mental health difficulties.  We also explored whether generic mental health information and support provided (digitally) to a parent/carer in the young person’s life was important in helping the adult feel better equipped to support the young person. Further information can be found on the MindMate2U website.

Reducing adolescent smoking initiation

This research project was funded by several grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the National Prevention Research Initiative and was led by Professor Mark Conner. We have been conducting this research on adolescent smoking initiation for over 15 years.  Our work includes a number of studies looking at predictors of starting smoking in adolescence. 

In addition, we have conducted three prospective studies in smoking initiation in this age group.  This work uses implementation intentions to help adolescents pre-plan how to say no to offers of cigarettes. In a pilot study (n=104), an explanatory trial (n=1338) and a pragmatic trial (n=6155) this work shows that this intervention reduces smoking initiation in 11-16 year olds.

The Big Picture: Preventing youth substance abuse in Assam

Funded from the ESRC/AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund, we are conducting research with partner organisations in India - MIND India, NIRMAAN Rehabilitation Facility, and HOPR FOUNDATION Rehabilitation Facility - to understand how, despite risk and opportunity, some young Assamese people avoid harmful substance abuse. We also want to know how other young people, who may have become addicted to substances, successfully recover and regain control. Using photo-led interviews and film-making workshops, we are supporting young people to tell their stories of resilience and recovery in both words and pictures. Our aim is to convey these inspirational narratives to the public and to policy-makers. We will also work with practitioners to develop innovative services - such as assessments and interventions - that include images created by the young people with whom they are working. We will promote the study findings, and inspirational films on a purpose-designed website ( and host events in Assam and the UK to engage policy-makers and the public. The work is led by Professor Anna Madill, Dr Siobhan Hugh-Jones, Raginie Duara (School of Psychology), Professor Paul Cooke (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies), Dr Tolib Mirzoev (Institute of Health Sciences), Dr Rebecca Graber (University of Brighton).

Study to Examine Psychological Processes in Suicidal Ideation and behaviour (STEPPS)

This research project is funded by the US Department of Defense and is led by Professor Daryl O’Connor and is based in our Laboratory for Stress and Health Research (STARlab). The project is part of a larger programme of research led by Professor Rory O’Connor (University of Glasgow) and has collaborators based at the University of Stirling (Professor Ronan O’Carroll) and University of Nottingham (Professor Eamonn Ferguson).

The aim of the project is to improve understanding of the predictors of suicide. Specifically, in STARlab, we have been exploring the role of stress and associated hormones (eg cortisol) in relation to suicide behaviour. In particular, we have been investigating whether cortisol reactivity stress in the laboratory and in the real world can differentiate individuals who have previously made a suicide attempt from those who had thought about suicide but not made an attempt.   

Increasing cervical cancer screening uptake in Yorkshire

Early identification of cervical cancer risk could prevent a large number of deaths. The NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme is the central strategy for reducing cervical cancer mortality. However, screening uptake rates are falling, particularly in women aged 25 - 49 years and remain low in deprived groups. This Yorkshire Cancer Research funded project aims to improve cervical screening rates overall and in particular groups (e.g., younger and deprived women), working with NHS England North and the NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme. This research is piloting and testing the effectiveness of a new low cost behaviour change intervention to increase uptake of cervical screening in Yorkshire. This work is led by Professor Daryl O’Connor and Professor Mark Conner with Dr Sarah Wilding.

Increasing Physical Activity: Designing and Testing a Workplace Intervention

This project was funded by the BUPA Foundation and was awarded to the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds. This important UK-first physical activity trial, led by Professor Rebecca Lawton, aimed to promote good health by making people aware of the benefits of physical activity, encouraging employers to provide an environment conducive to it and staff to practise it. The study was run in collaboration with the Centre for Workplace Health at the Health & Safety Laboratory, an agency of the Health & Safety Executive.

The work place is an excellent setting to promote physical activity. This 36-month study developed and evaluated a flexible and problem-based intervention to promote physical activity. The intervention targeted Awareness, Motivation and Environment (AME) and was tailored to five organisations, Wrexham County Borough Council, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, First Group (Leeds and York), Health & Safety Laboratory and the University of Leeds.

Facilities and Resources

The School of Psychology has a wide range of specialised facilities and resources available for research projects. 


Tmam Alghunaim
Khalid Alshahrani
Dr Jon Benn
Professor Mark Conner
Professor Daryl O’Connor

Dr Siobhan Hugh-Jones
Dr Russell Hutter
Mike Jestico                         
Dr Judith Johnson
Professor Rebecca Lawton
Professor Anna Madill
Madeleine Pownall
Dr Andrew Prestwich
Lucy Prodgers
Olivia Rogerson
Elizabeth Travis
Professor Mitch Waterman