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Health and wellbeing

From the poster boards

Emma Davies (Oxford Brookes University) reports from the Society's Annual Conference.

19 May 2017

If you’ve ever wanted to scream at the self-service checkout as it informs you about yet another unexpected item in the bagging area then you’ll immediately feel an affinity with research conducted by Patricia Fracalanza and Moira Cachia from University of West London. They explored ‘technostress’ using a thematic analysis of online forums, uncovering a variety of ways in which technology frustrates and annoys us. Posts suggested people were worried about a lack of human contact with remarks such as ‘soon no one will have to talk to another human being’. People also expressed aggravation and avoidance of new technology, stating ‘there’s no law that says you have to have a touch screen’.


Hannah Joseph-Green from University of Westminster and Louise Bunce Oxford Brookes used a novel test to explore creativity in children. Traditional tests might involve asking a participant to think of as many uses for a cup as possible. In the ‘Teddy Test’ children have to think of as many ways as possible that a child doll can get his teddy back off a high shelf after it was put there by his brother. Joseph-Green and Bunce found that children who heard an unrealistic story were more creative than children who heard a realistic story before performing this task.


Christie Marsh, Carola Leicht, and Georgina Randsley de Moura from the University of Kent explored how sharing parental responsibility might impact gender equality in the workplace. Participants imagined they were involved in a workplace promotion decision and had to judge candidates on a range of factors. Men who took longer parental leave were judged as less committed to work and had less chance of promotion. This research highlights issues of discrimination which are important to address following the new UK shared parental leave policy introduced in April 2015.


Welfare reforms appear to have impacted on women’s wellbeing in an unsettling range of ways, according to Jenny Terry from the University of Brighton. Although financial hardship might appear to be the main challenge, Terry discovered that the reforms were also resulting in body shame, isolation and compounding the effects of single parenthood. Terry’s study used a photo elicitation technique, asking participants to take and bring pictures to their interviews to discuss. Images of household bills, dustbins and unpleasant views highlighted the challenges these participants faced.


Engaging in regular physical activity can help to improve recovery and quality of life for cancer patients. Helen Harder and a research team comprising her colleagues from Sussex Health Outcomes Research and Education, Brighton and Sussex Medical School and charity Cancer United explored views about a tailored exercise programme for those in cancer recovery. Although attending the exercise sessions, half of the participants were unaware of current guidelines for physical activity, and only two thirds had received specific advice about exercise. Taking part in the programme did increase activity, but Harder and colleagues believe that further tailored programmes are required, alongside the development of formal physical activity guidelines for this population.


It seems that mindfulness has permeated countless facets of everyday life and practitioners report many benefits.  Jessamine Rayner from Oxford Brookes University sought to explore what impact it might have on our health behaviours. Using a newly developed scale of trait mindfulness (the CHIME scale) designed to capture the multiple facets thought to be involved, she explored whether reduced stress may play a role. Interestingly, while stress mediated the relationship between mindfulness and diet and exercise behaviours, findings for substance use were non-significant. So although trait mindfulness may reduce stress helping us to eat healthily and engage in more exercise, further research is needed to explore its impact on alcohol consumption and smoking. 

- More coverage from the Society's Annual Conference will appear here in the coming weeks, and in the July print edition.