Workplace wellbeing is more than just free bananas

by Helen Fitzhugh

What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘workplace wellbeing’? If you automatically think of fruit baskets, free massages and playful Silicon Valley office space, you are not alone.

I know, because I recently spent time listening to the ambitions and fears of business leaders on workplace wellbeing for a study funded by the National Productivity Investment Fund and the ESRC. Continue reading

Mental health, academic life and me

by Matt Flinders

There can be little doubt that mental health is a growing global challenge. And it really is a global challenge. Although rapid rises in relation to depression, anxiety, substance misuse, self-harming and eating disorders have been well-documented in many ‘advanced’ and relatively wealthy countries, it has been estimated that over 80% of those suffering from mental health disorders actually live in the Global South where support is rare.

Seen from this perspective the potential role and impact of the social sciences in terms of helping to understand why the mental health of so many nations seems to be fraying and what might be done has never been greater. I’m not suggesting that it is the role of the social sciences to come up with simple answers to complex problems. But I am suggesting that the complexity of the mental health challenge – with its cultural, economic and political dimensions – demands an inter-disciplinary approach with the social sciences at its core. Continue reading

Collaborating to prevent dementia and advance care for people affected by dementia

by James Dixon

It is World Alzheimer’s Day today and with it comes the rather worn question: are we any closer to preventing or curing dementia? Along with the personal struggle that dementia can bring to any family, it’s a worsening issue as the UK’s population ages and places further strain on a brittle social care system. Newspaper headlines about the next miracle prevention for dementia, whether blueberries or black coffee, are often overblown but behind these stories lie pieces of research taking place across the country and the rest of the world. Continue reading

Sugary solution?

by Kate Smith

Since 6 April, the UK’s sugar tax has seen shoppers asked to pay 18p or 24p more per litre of soft drink bought, depending on how much sugar the drink contains. In Scotland, from May, alcohol is now not allowed to be sold for less than 50p per unit, with Wales also looking at similar measures.

The rationale for these price policies is that sugar and alcohol are associated with problems that impose a substantial cost on society. For example, problem drinking can lead to anti-social behaviour, crime, pressure on A&Es and increased liver disease. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to rising obesity rates, diabetes and heart disease. Continue reading

Reducing HIV in Africa with ‘cash plus care’

by Lucie Cluver

Our work often feels like a series of battles against an enemy that outwits us.

Despite real global progress in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS (PDF, UNICEF website), children and adolescents remain left behind. Every hour, 30 adolescents are infected with HIV.  The situation is most severe in Southern and Eastern Africa, which accounts for nine in 10 of adolescent AIDS deaths. AIDS is the leading cause of death amongst adolescents in the region.

We have realised that if we are to have any chance of winning the battle, academics need to work in close partnership with governments, UN agencies and policymakers – and with teenagers themselves. Our research studies are developed together with these groups, which often leads us to unexpected questions and findings. Continue reading