The importance of our social environment in understanding suicidal behaviour

by Duleeka Knipe

Over 800,000 people die by suicide every year – that’s one death every forty seconds. A disproportionate number (76%) of these deaths occur in the world’s poorest countries. Our knowledge of the reasons why people die by suicide in this part of the world is severely limited, but a better understanding is desperately needed given that suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

A huge barrier to improving our understanding is that we simply did not have good data from low and middle income countries to help us better comprehend this complex behaviour – until now. Continue reading

Celebrating the impact of women in social science

by Fiona Armstrong

International Women’s Day is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. So the perfect moment to reflect on how women in social science have been making our lives better – a topic that one blog post can barely scratch the surface of!

The contribution of women to the social sciences is rich and diverse, although not always well documented. Where to start? With Florence Nightingale? Surely the mother of the modern infographic and a champion of quantitative social science as well as a pioneer in the field of nursing. Where to end? With the winners of the ESRC’s Impact Prize – where women continue to change the world through high quality research?  Continue reading

Mental health, social science and the capabilities approach

by Richard Brunner

In the late 1990s, I did the hardest job I hope I will ever do: advocating for the rights of patients in a psychiatric hospital in one of London’s most disadvantaged boroughs.

What made it so tough? Whilst patients were usually pleased to have someone on their side, the hierarchies of clinical power made it hard for patients to get what they wanted. These were usually modest requests – perhaps escorted time outside the hospital grounds or changes to medication. But what made it even more challenging was what happened once people were discharged from hospital. They would generally return to the same difficult circumstances that had led to their admission in the first place; care plans and advocacy made little difference. And so I would see the same people admitted over and over again. Without knowing it, I was learning about the social and environmental determinants of health. Continue reading

Why people believe in conspiracy theories

by Benjamin Lyons, Vittorio Merola, and Jason Reifler

Conspiracy theories are finally out of the shadows.

While that might be a bit dramatic, it is true that social scientists are beginning to pay more attention to conspiracy theories. As a result, we have an ever improving understanding of who believes in conspiracy theories, and why. Continue reading

Knocking tones off their perch: investigating how young people learn Mandarin Chinese

by Rob Neal

As China’s economic and strategic importance grows, learning Chinese is becoming an option for school children around the world. Yet despite the hype, there is a long way to go before Chinese enjoys a mainstream presence on the curriculum of British schools. Tellingly, only 3000 pupils took a GCSE in Chinese in 2016 with most of these students coming from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. The profile of Chinese learners overall remains biased towards those from more advantaged backgrounds.

Continue reading