MSc Health Psychology
Welcome to UCL
What is Health Psychology?
Health psychology is a rapidly expanding discipline that can be defined as the practice and application of psychological methods to the study of behaviour relevant to health, illness and health care. Health psychologists use psychological principles to promote changes in people’s behaviour and their associated beliefs about health and illness.
The Health Behavior Research Centre helps to coordinate the UCL MSc Health Psychology programme, a research-based, BPS-accredited Stage 1 qualification. The programme is the longest-running MSc Health Psychology in the UK, and offers unrivaled teaching, delivered by leading experts in their field. The HBRC undertakes research aimed at advancing our understanding of behaviours that have a major impact on health and to contribute to the development of interventions to promote healthy lifestyles. The Centre is part of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL.
Key benefits of studying Health Psychology at UCL
- The Times Higher Education World University Rankings' has UCL ranked as one of top ranking universities in UK for research in health sciences;
- UCL has been leading the field in Health Psychology research since 1987 and employs the largest number of health psychology researchers in the country;
- The course is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) which ensures not only the quality of the course but also that the widest range of training, development and employment opportunities are open to students;
- The course is delivered by the leading experts in their field, for example Professor Andrew Steptoe (Course Director) delivers the lecture on cardiovascular disease
- Watch a recent interview with Andrew Steptoe on BBC news
- Students can expect a high proportion of one-to-one contact and support, having termly academic tutorials and access to personal and departmental graduate tutors and dedicated supervisors;
- Professional development of students is actively encouraged through teaching (e.g. on effective job applications and interview techniques), careers lectures, placements and work opportunities within various research groups.
- Internationally renowned course attracting students from all over the world
Availability: Full-time 1 year; Part-time 2 years
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. The programme consists of eight core modules (120 credits) taught in the first two terms, a placement in the last term and a research dissertation (60 credits) due at the end of the academic year. The course is accredited by the British Psychological Society as Stage 1 training toward becoming a Chartered Health Psychologist.
This module is designed to equip students with the skills to work as a professional researcher within appropriate ethical and regulatory frameworks. The focus of the module will be on developing practical skills (written and presentational), learning how to identify and critically appraise research literature, and understanding legal and ethical obligations.
- Academic Writing Skills (including Referencing)
- Critical Appraisal Skills 1: Theory
- Critical Appraisal Skills 2: Practice
- Writing Effective Grant Applications
- Delivering Effective Presentations
- Research Ethics 1 (research governance & ethics including practical approach to obtaining ethics)
- Research Ethics 2 (Good Clinical Practice)
- Legal & Statutory Obligations in Health Psychology
- Class Presentation (assessed 10 min presentation of grant application idea)
- Interview Practice
- Careers lecture
The module provides an introduction to quantitative research methods and statistical methods, and qualitative data collection and analysis. The basic principles of study design and methodology are introduced. Quantitative statistical analysis methods are taught using SPSS and include ANOVA, regression analyses and statistics for questionnaire design. An overview of qualitative research methods is provided.
- General Overview and Measurement in Health Psychology
- Hypothesis Testing, Sample Size, Probability & Power Calculations
- Introduction to Epidemiology: Methodology & Risk assessment
- Introduction to SPSS for Windows [combined theory and practical]
- Testing parametric assumptions and Basic Statistics [combined theory and practical]
- ANOVA and ANCOVA [combined theory and practical] *unassessed practical
- Statistics for Questionnaire Design [combined theory and practical]
- Factor Analysis [combined theory and practical] *unassessed practical
- Correlation and Linear Regression [combined theory and practical] * unassessed practical
- Multivariate Linear Regression [combined theory and practical] *unassessed practical
- Introduction to Qualitative Research [combined theory and practical]
- Revision session
The module provides a detailed discussion of qualitative research, and advanced statistical methods for primary and secondary analysis of quantitative data. The ‘qualitative’ component incorporates lecture-and-workshop sessions on three methods, chosen to cover the two main epistemological approaches to qualitative analysis (realist vs contructivist). The ‘quantitative’ component is lecture-based.
- Systematic Reviews
- Logistic Regression (including odds ratios; combined theory and practical)
- Meta-analysis (including meta-regression)
- Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)
- Discourse Analysis
- Survival Analysis
- Grounded Theory/Framework Analysis
- Mediation and Moderation
The module provides a state-of-the-art overview of key health psychology theories and constructs and shows how they are applied to explain and predict commonly studied health-related behaviours (including dietary consumption, exercise, and smoking) and health outcomes.
- General intro to health psychology and generic skills for postgrads
- Models of Health Behaviour 1
- Models of Health Behaviour 2
- Symptom Perception
- Risk Perception
- Self-Regulatory Model & Illness Representations
- Smoking Cessation
- Exercise & Health
- Diet, Nutrition & Health
This module is designed to increase knowledge of associations between individual, social and cultural factors on health. The module focuses on: understanding developmental and lifespan frameworks; developing an appreciation of the effect of individual differences, gender, ethnicity, culture, and class on the psychology of health and health care delivery; and approaches to health adopted by related disciplines.
- Intelligence and Health
- Health Inequalities
- Social Norms and Attributions
- Emotions, Health and positive well-being
- Ethnicity, Culture & Health
- Social Relationships
- Personality: A Life Course Perspective on Health (to include adult attachment, dispositional optimism/pessimism, locus of control, negative affectivity)
- Social Capital
- Gender and Health
This module is designed to increase students` understanding of concepts and issues related to stress, health and illness. This module will look at how health psychologists can measure stress and limitations of these approaches. The psychophysiological response to acute and chronic stress will be described for healthy and chronically ill populations. Factors that may promote or moderate the stress response will be explored e.g. ageing, coping. The module will also critically examine the theoretical framework of the cognitive behavioural approach to stress management.
- Disability & Global Health
- Models of Stress & Psychobiology
- Depression & Physical Illness
- Stress Management Techniques
- Impact of Illness on the Family (to include children & caregiving)
- Adherence to Treatment: Conceptual & Methodological Issues
- Quality of life
- End of Life Issues
This module is designed to develop a knowledge base in relation to psychological, social and cognitive influences on chronic illness and management of chronic disease. The module will cover self-management interventions and theory, evaluation of complex interventions, practical issues related to implementation of such interventions, and theories of pain and pain management, as related to specific chronic illnesses and long-term conditions (e.g. diabetes and cardiovascular disease).
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Cardiac Rehabilitation (including goal-setting)
- Sexual Health & HIV Research
- Sleep & Health
- Coping with Chronic Illness
- Self management interventions
- Impact of Screening
This module is designed to provide students with a knowledge base in the provision and delivery of health care. It will develop understanding of the structure and operation of different health care systems, including the NHS; managing change and leadership; health economics; issues around medical decision-making; models of doctor-patient communication; the impact of hospitalisation, stressful hospital procedures and screening; and developments that will impact on delivery of health care in the future such as telehealth and genetics.
- Health Care Systems: Changes in Structure and Health Policy
- Health Economics
- Genetic and other biomarker feedback
- Doctor-Patient Communication 1: Theory
- Half-day observation of consultations between health care professionals & patients
- Medical Decision-making
- Hospitalisation and Stressful Hospital Procedures (including intensive and critical care; adults and children)
- Motivational Interviewing
- Behaviour Change Interventions
- Managing Change & Leadership
- Doctor-Patient Communication 2: Reflection on observation of consultations
During the first two terms, students attend weekly journal clubs in which recent, relevant research papers are discussed to hone critical appraisal and presentation skills.
During the last term, students will be offered a placement in an academic, clinical or professional (e.g. NGO, charity) setting which will last for a minimum of one week. In addition, throughout the Masters students are provided with opportunities of voluntary placements in Research groups within the Department to gain work experience.
All students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation written up as a mock paper submission to the British Journal of Health Psychology.
Teaching and Learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, class exercises, project work, training workshops, journal clubs and hands-on computer-based teaching on statistical analysis techniques. Assessment is through coursework (including critical reviews, essays), one unseen examination and the research project.
Assessment is through coursework (including critical and systematic reviews, essays), one unseen examination and the research project.
Recent Research Projects
The following peer-reviewed publications began life as UCL MSc Health Psychology student projects:
Ghanouni A, Smith S, Halligan S, Plumb A, Boone D, Magee M, Wardle J, von Wagner C. (2011) Public Perceptions and preferences for CT colonography or colonoscopy in colorectal cancer screening. Patient Education and Counseling; 89: 116-121.
Nadarzynski, T., Waller, J., Robb, K.A., & Marlow, L.A.V. (2012) Perceived risk of cervical cancer among pre-screening age women (18-24 years): the impact of information about cervical cancer risk factors and the causal role of HPV. Sexually Transmitted Infections; 88: 400-6.
Norris, E., & Myers, L. (2013) Determinants of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use in UK motorcyclists: Exploratory research applying an extended Theory of Planned Behaviour. Accident Analysis & Prevention; 60: 219-30.
Wahlich, C., Gardner, B., & McGowan, L. (2013) How, when and why do young women use nutrition information on food labels? A qualitative analysis. Psychology & Health, 28, 202-216.
Silla K, Beard E, Shahab L. (2014) Characterization of Long-Term Users of Nicotine Replacement Therapy: Evidence From a National Survey. Nicotine Tob Res 2014, DOI: 10.1093/ntr/ntu019
Steinmo S, Hagger-Johnson, G, Shahab L (2014). Bi-directional association between mental health and physical activity in older adults: Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Preventative Medicine.
Tang MY, Shahab L, Robb KA, & Gardner B (in press) Are parents more likely to vaccinate their children than themselves? Journal of Health Psychology.
Some project titles from 2011/12:
- The relationship between short sleep and food preferences in young children.
- Determinants of motorcycle safety wear use: prevalence, risk perceptions and habits.
- Why so Sceptical? Understanding Attitudes towards Pandemic Health Warnings.
- Association between use of the StopAdvisor smoking cessation internet intervention and predictors of quit success.
- Who writes health related Wikipedia articles and why?
Some project titles from 2012/13:
- Why do people eat what they eat?
- Age and Time trends in Multiple Health Behaviours.
- Health professionals' attitudes as a predictor of intention to recommend cervical screenings and the HPV vaccine - a questionnaire based study.
- Is inflammation driven mainly by somatic symptoms of depression in patients with heart disease?
Past Student Experiences
Aleksandra Herbec (MSc Health Psychology: 2012 - 2013)
Laura McDonald, PhD student, UCL (MSc student: 2010-2011)
I undertook the MSc in Health Psychology to pursue an interest in understanding and helping to improve health behaviours, particularly those implicated in diet and obesity. The reputation of UCL as a world-leading research and teaching institution meant that it was always my first choice when deciding where to take-up the course. I was not disappointed; the course was well-organised and sufficiently varied to reflect the wide-scope of the discipline. The teaching was unrivalled and it was a privilege to be taught by prominent figures within health psychology and expects within the field.
The MSc was nonetheless challenging and required a great deal of motivation and hard work to achieve the high standards required by the course leaders. However, as a result I graduated with a solid grounding in the principals of health psychology, its research methods and application. The knowledge and enthusiasm I gained for health psychology during the MSc has motivated me to pursue a PhD within the field. I will continue the work I started during the course, trying to better understand how sleep behaviour might impact appetite and weight regulation in young children.
Samantha Quaife, Research Assistant, UCL (MSc student: 2010 - 2011)
It was during my undergraduate degree that I first became interested in Health Psychology, when I learnt that stress can actually slow wound healing. I became fascinated with this mind-body connection and the huge potential for Health Psychologists to improve public health. I decided I wanted to make this my career and undertook the MSc course at UCL in 2010/11.
Although challenging, I enjoyed the course and benefited from the expertise of a wide variety of external lecturers who came to teach their own specialist topics. As well as opening my eyes to the broad application of Health Psychology, the course provided me with a thorough grounding in key issues for Health Psychologists and allowed me to develop excellent skills in statistics and research. On completion of the course, I worked for a year as both a Health Promotion Practitioner and Stop Smoking Advisor in Nottingham City. This allowed me to develop practical skills in behaviour change and observe social inequalities in health first hand. This experience further increased my understanding of the huge potential Health Psychologists have to improve public health and I was eager to be involved in better understanding how. Since returning to London, I am now working as a temporary research assistant at UCL with the aim of pursuing a career in Health Psychology research.
Who can apply?
The programme is suitable for students who wish to develop a thorough grounding in health psychology as preparation for a subsequent research degree or employment in a related field.
A minimum of an upper second-class (2.1) Bachelor's degree in Psychology from a UK university, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Lower second-class (2.2) or equivalent degrees may be accepted if evidence of further study or relevant work experience is provided.
Completion of the MSc satisfies Stage 1 of recognised training to become a Chartered Health Psychologist
However, applicants must have Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) with the British Psychological Society (BPS) if they want to pursue a career as a Chartered Health Psychologist practising in the UK.
What are we looking for?
When we assess your application we would like to learn:
- why you want to study Health Psychology at graduate level;
- why you want to study Health Psychology at UCL;
- how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this programme;
- where you would like to go professionally with your degree.
Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.
- Overseas/Home/EU: 1st August 2014
- UK/EU 2014/15: £8,500 (FT)
- Overseas 2014/15: £21,700 (FT)
UCL ESRC Doctoral Training Centre grants are available for 2015/16. All PhD applications should be made to the relevant Department (not directly to the UCL ESRC DTC) and candidates who are successful at securing a place to study may then be put forward by the Department for consideration for an ESRC studentship. Further details can be found here.
In addition, UCL offers a range of financial awards aimed at assisting both prospective and current students with their studies.
Page last modified on 07 apr 14 11:43