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

Putting research in its place

by Alex Hulkes

‘Place’ and accessibility, including access to the knowledge and skills found in the UK’s research organisations, are recurrent themes in the UK’s Industrial Strategy. This makes them important, as the strategy is central to how the government sees future investment and growth in the country’s R&D.

Many of the elements of the strategy, such as the drive to increase investment in R&D to 2.4% of UK GDP by 2027, have been uniformly welcomed. But when it comes to deciding the right emphasis and the nature of the interventions required, differing views are apparent. This is no bad thing: for strategies of this kind it really is true that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. 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

New academic year, new policy engaged you!

by Sarah Foxen

As the new academic year kicks off, I wonder if you’ve planned any ‘new year’s resolutions’. Perhaps you’re going to try a different approach to doing your teaching prep or find a new way of conducting data collection? Or perhaps you’re considering taking steps to have more impact with your work?

If it’s the latter of these, then you should know that engaging with the UK Parliament can be a great way to achieve policy impact. I’d like to share some of the benefits of engaging with Parliament through research – and share some practical ideas on how to do so. Continue reading

Taking time out to go Scroll Free

by Yvonne Kelly

This week marks the start of the Royal Society for Public Health’s Scroll Free September campaign, encouraging people to take a break from social media.

In 2015, in some of the first research to examine the potential harms of excessive screen time and social media use, we found that children who were heavy users of screen-based media were less happy and had more social and emotional problems than their peers who used it moderately. Children who used social media sites for chatting were also less likely to be happy and more likely to have problems than their peers who did not.

More recently, our work on the trends for boys’ and girls’ social media use showed that 10 year-old girls who spent an hour or more on a school day chatting online had considerably more social and emotional problems by age 15 than girls of the same age who spent less or no time on social media. The number of problems they faced also increased as they got older, which was not the case for boys. The research was based on the experiences of 10,000 10-15 year-olds in the Understanding Society study. Continue reading