The Health Psychology Research Group has a broad focus on enhancing health and well-being across the lifespan. The group has three key themes:
Condition-specific scale development
Psychological evaluation of chronic conditions including cystic fibrosis, lupus, obesity, eating behaviours and childhood loneliness.
Psychological and biological responses to stressors.
This includes the development, psychometric evaluation and clinical interpretation of health–related quality of life (HRQoL) instruments (cystic fibrosis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity) and measures of emotional functioning. For example:
Janice Abbott leads international programmes of work in HRQoL measurement in cystic fibrosis and working with East Lancashire NHS Trust, has developed the first HRQoL instrument in systemic lupus erythematosus informed by service users (LupusQoL). The instrument is translated into more than 80 languages and is being used in international clinical trials. A multi-centre study, funded by Arthritis UK, is underway to further evaluate the sensitivity to change of the LupusQoL allowing clear interpretation of the instrument to guide decision making by end users.
Kathryn Gardner is seeking to evaluate the psychometric properties and provide clinical interpretation of measures of emotional functioning and borderline personality disorder (BPD), by examining the role of emotional functioning specific to BPD traits in a non-clinical population. She is currently collaborating with the forensic service to investigate these associations within a population high on BPD traits.
Lorraine Dacre-Pool work involves the evaluation of the emotional self-efficacy scale. In collaboration with several high schools across the UK, the scale has been adapted and evaluated for use with young adolescents who have poor literacy levels. This measure is being used in several mainstream and short-stay schools across the UK as a measure of self-perceived emotional functioning.
Janice Abbott’s work has included cross sectional and longitudinal programmes of work in cystic fibrosis, modelling the demographic, clinical and coping variables associated with HRQoL. She has recently published two landmark papers establishing (1) that aspects of patient-reported HRQoL serve as prognostic measures of survival beyond a number of previously known factors in cystic fibrosis and (2) the first longitudinal HRQoL data for cystic fibrosis that assesses the natural progression of HRQoL reporting over many years, providing a benchmark to inform data interpretation and clinical relevance. Additionally, Janice is co-leading the UK arm of cystic fibrosis International Anxiety and Depression Epidemiological Study (TIDES) (funded by Liverpool Broad Green NHS Trust and the UK Cystic Fibrosis Trust), with 39 UK Cystic Fibrosis Units participating.
Emma Bray’s work focuses on the self management of high blood pressure. A systematic review of the literature reported that self-monitoring appeared to have a small but significant effect on the reduction of office blood pressure when compared to usual care. The TASMINH trial (Telemonitoring and self management in hypertension) was subsequently undertaken, consisting of regular self-measurements of blood pressure and a simple predetermined titration plan for antihypertensive drugs. This approach was found to be more effective in lowering systolic blood pressure than is usual care over a 1 year period and represents an important addition to the control of hypertension in primary care.
Jo Bryce’s international work on Internet safety and child protection has taken a multimethod approach to examining young peoples’ online experiences and risk exposure. It also focuses on developing and evaluating educational strategies for increasing online safety.
Dacre-Pool and Qualter’s work found that workers who have confidence in their emotional functioning perceived themselves to be more employable and exhibited higher levels of career satisfaction. A controlled intervention study suggested that emotional intelligence can be enhanced among university undergraduates, thereby increasing their employability and career prospects.
Pamela Qualter has established a clear definition of childhood loneliness and identified predictors and health outcomes of long-term child and adolescent loneliness using prospective research designs. Her work has informed the ‘ChildLine’ case notes, with the crib sheets being used daily by people working with children reporting loneliness. Examination of early predictors is on-going, but ESRC funded work has established that cognitive biases are implicated. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Chicago, she is extending that work using High Performance Electrical Neuroimaging. Pamela has also examined intergenerational loneliness with colleagues at the University of Montreal and McGill University and is extending that line of enquiry in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Nijmegen (The Netherlands) and Leuven (Belgium) by examining parents use of emotional language., Qualter, Abbott, & Gardner have examined the longitudinal associations between obesity and victimization, finding that high BMI contributes to victimization, but also that victimization increases BMI for young girls.
Vaithehy Shanmugam’s approach to understanding how disturbed eating behaviours in athletes develop, uses the transdiagnostic theory of eating disorders. Early work indicates that the manner in which the disorder develops is invariant across performance levels and sport type and highlights a multimodal pathway between interpersonal difficulties and eating disorders in athletes.
Nicola Bridge’s animal work evaluates the effects of chronic corticosterone on hippocampal glial cells to further understand the processes involved in hippocampal atrophy that can occur following prolonged stress. Additionally, Nicola’s work includes the evaluation of the anxiolytic properties of progesterone in response to acute, chronic and withdrawn progesterone treatment.
Sarita Robinson’s research explores how environmental stressors impact on psychological and physiological functioning, areas of cognition that fail during stress exposure and how stress responses are modulated by individual differences. Collaboration continues with the Norwegian Armed Forces, RAF St Mawgan and Fleetwood Nautical College to examine cognitive and immune system changes during capture and survival and individual differences (social support, coping styles and optimism) in response to Helicopter Underwater Evacuation Training.
Ensuring that a new medicine improves or maintains a person’s quality of life is important. Janice Abbott’s longstanding collaborative relationship with health professionals and service users has enabled the development of two patient-reported, quality of life instruments (CFQoL, LupusQoL), and allowed service users a voice in their healthcare.
Cystic Fibrosis: Her expertise has contributed to the development of policy/guidelines concerning quality of life measurement in clinical trials; for example, the European Cystic Fibrosis Society consensus report concerning clinical trials in cystic fibrosis. Subsequently, as part of the European Framework 6 programme she led the European quality of life group to produce the guidelines for the measurement of quality of life in clinical trials in cystic fibrosis. Additionally, she was a member of an interdisciplinary group of world experts on Cystic Fibrosis who worked with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The EMA is the body that regulates, licences and constantly monitors the safety of medicines across the European Union. Together with European drug regulators, representatives from international pharmaceutical companies, and patient representatives, they discussed and compiled current scientific evidence on outcome measures for evaluating medicines targeting CF lung disease. The proceedings were observed globally by the US Food and Drugs Administration, Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, Japan and Health Canada via broadcasting.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: The LupusQoL (www.lupusqol.com) has attracted global interest from the pharmaceutical sector. Inclusion of a patient-reported quality of life instrument in clinical trials is essential and will enable a pharmaceutical company to gain approval to market a drug and make licensing claims as to the effectiveness of the drug from the patient perspective. Driven by demand from pharmaceutical companies to translate the LupusQoL into numerous languages so that the instrument could be used in multi-national drug trials, a US translation company, Corporate Translations Inc, have translated and culturally validated the LupusQoL into numerous languages. It has been used successfully in 51 countries and in 77 different languages. The LupusQoL is currently being used in several phase 111 clinical trials (predominantly in North America) to evaluate whether a specific drug can improve a patient’s quality of life.
Jo Bryce works within a political and regulatory environment in collaboration with international stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, enforcement, industry) concerned with internet safety and child protection. She was involved in drafting the Council of Europe Recommendation (2006) ‘12 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Empowering Children in the New Information and Communications Environment’. This expedited a research project funded by Orange the Mobile Network Operator and Internet Service Provider. The research examined young peoples’ online experiences and risk exposure, focusing on the development and evaluation of educational strategies for increasing online safety.
The research had a series of impacts:
Pamela Qualter and Kathryn Gardner’s research on Emotional Intelligence (EI) lead to the development of resources hosted by the Higher Education Academy (HEA). They are used to develop emotional intelligence and maintain personal wellbeing in university students. They are used by several UK Universities (e.g. Buckingham, Durham, Liverpool Hope, Liverpool John Moores, Teesside, and Northumbria). At a dissemination event held for teachers, several primary and secondary school teachers became interested in collaboration. Together with Qualter and funding from the Urban Regeneration Making a Difference programme and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, they developed EI software that helps to increase Emotional Intelligence skills amongst pupils excluded from mainstream schools (http://www.u-think.org.uk/). This is used by most short-stay schools in North West England and is hosted by UCLan as a free resource. It is accessed via Cumbria and Lancashire County Council’s CLEO network.
Janice Abbott is a member of the International Guidelines Committee, formed by the US Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and European Cystic Fibrosis Society, to develop and implement guidelines for the assessment and management of anxiety and depression in cystic fibrosis.
Munirah Bangee, a PhD student in the School of Psychology under the supervision of Pamela Qualter, has recently returned from a research visit to the University of Chicago. Munirah work with Professors John and Stephanie Cacioppo in their High Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory (https://caciopponeurolab.sites.uchicago.edu/node) on an ERP study of loneliness and social threat.
Kathryn Gardner has developed a website OnlinePsychResearch that provides links to resources on how to conduct internet-mediated research. The site gives links to live psychology-related studies across the world.
Pamela Qualter has received a grant from ESRC (2013) with Steve Brown and Bridget Young (University of Liverpool). The award of £338,118.76 is to examine social scripts and alcohol related aggression in alcohol naïve adolescents.
Dr Emma Bray was featured in the Winter 2016 edition of BreakThrough magazine talking about being a Guild Research Fellow and about her research into measuring blood pressure (Pages 6 - 9).