Health Psychology

The MSc in Health Psychology has its origins in the third Masters course established in the Department, the MSc in Medical Psychology which was initially set up by Lionel Hayward.

The early interest in health psychology was not surprising given the strong clinical presence in the Department, research in both social and environmental psychology which was situated in health settings, and perhaps most significantly, the existence of the MSc in Medical Psychology which had been established in the early 1980s which drew on the knowledge and experience of existing staff in the Department such as Jim Stevenson.  Jim Stevenson was the first Course Director of this MSc, a course which continued under that name until the modularisation of the MSc programmes in 1994.  Jim Stevenson was most noted for his research which demonstrated that the familial nature of reading disability could be attributed to genetic factors.  Much of this work was undertaken with twins and further genetic studies were extended to include twin studies on asthma, anxiety and dissociation.  Jim subsequently left to become Professor of Psychology at the University of Southampton.

The research and teaching on Health Psychology was further enhanced in the 1990s and 2000s by the appointment of Professor Sarah Hampson, whose particular research interests were on personality and health, particularly diabetes over the lifespan.  Sarah came to Surrey as Professor of Psychology and Health in 1995, and after holding a part-time appointment with the Oregon Research Institute in the USA for several years, finally moved permanently to Eugene in 2009.  During this time, she supervised the PhD of Marie Clark who then became a Lecturer in Health Psychology and established the Stage 2 programme for health psychology.   Mark Cropley joined the department in 2002 and took over as Course Director of the MSc in Health Psychology.   Marie’s research interests were very closely aligned with Sarah’s focusing on self-management in diabetes whilst Mark brought a strong interest in psychophysiology with a particular emphasis on stress and heart disease.   When Sarah initially returned to the US in 2005 she retained a part-time post at Surrey to continue her collaborations here.

At this time Jane Ogden started as the new Professor in Health Psychology.  Jane is particularly known for her textbook on Health Psychology and books and research papers on eating behaviour and obesity management.    Together, Jane, Mark and Marie ran the MSc for several years and then when Marie Clark left to go to UCL Vicky Senior moved across from the clinical course to join them with a particular interest in chronic conditions and risk perception.   Vicky then took over running the Stage 2 course whilst Jane ran the PhD programme.   Their work continued to focus on a number of health issues for the next 10 years and the Stage 2 programme and Masters course thrived.    Throughout this time many other people in the department carried out work in the area of health psychology. Chris Fife-Schaw who had been at the school since 1984, when he was appointed by Glynis Breakwell as her research assistant, began researching exercise and its health benefits, Laura Simonds who joined the clinical team in 2005 worked with Mark on rumination as this closely aligned with her own work on OCD and magical thinking and links were made between the health psychology team and those in environmental, social, organisational and clinical psychology.  Vicky then left the department in 2014 to work at BPP in London and in 2016 the Health Psychology team were joined by Kim Smith who has taken over managing the MSc and Bridget Dibb who now runs the Stage 2 programme (now a PhD in Health Psychology) and Cecile Muller (who also runs the MSc Conversion degree).

Over the years the health psychology team have supervised hundreds of Masters and PhD students and gained a solid reputation in health psychology both nationally and internationally.  Jane Ogden’s work continues to focus eating behaviour and obesity management, particularly after bariatric surgery.  Her textbook in health psychology (Ogden, 2012) has sold over 100,000 copies, is now in its 5th edition and has been translated into 7 different languages.  She has also published six other books including a parenting book on food and has initiated several more critical debates within the discipline.    She has also been involved with many TV and radio programmes including ‘Secret eaters’  and ‘The Truth about Fat’ and is a frequent contributor to articles in newspapers and magazines.  Mark Cropley has developed a strong reputation for his work on recovery from work and the moderators of rumination.  His book ‘The Off Switch’ (2015) gained much press interest and appealed to both an academic and lay audience.

Cropley, M. (2015). The off-switch: leave on time, relax your mind but still get more done.
Ogden, J. (2012). Health psychology: a textbook (5th edition). Maidenhead: Open University Press.