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

  • Recent REF 2014 ratings show that UCL is the top research university by research strengths  
  • 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 programme director Professor Andrew Steptoe on BBC news 
  • Listen to programme lead Dr Lion Shahab talking about China's Public Health Law in an interview with BBC
  • 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
Student Nationalities 2014

BPS accredited

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.

Core Modules

Module 1: Effective Research Practice

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

Module 2: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods 1 

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 SPSS for Windows
  • Testing parametric assumptions and Basic Statistics
  • Statistics for Questionnaire Design
  • Factor Analysis 
  • Correlation and Linear Regression 
  • Logistic Regression
  • Multivariate Linear Regression 
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research 
  • Revision session

Module 3: Quantitative & Qualitative Research Methods 2  

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 
  • Meta-analysis (including meta-regression)
  • Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) 
  • Qualitative Analysis Workshop
  • Mediation & Moderation
  • Grounded Theory
  • Framework Analysis
  • Randomised Controlled Trials
  • SEM/ Multi-level Modelling

Module 4: Health Related Behaviours & Cognitions 

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
  • Habits
  • Self-Regulatory Model & Illness Representations 
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Exercise & Health 
  • Diet, Nutrition & Health

Module 5: Individual, Social & Cultural Perspectives in Health Psychology

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
  • Genetics
  • Personality: A Life Course Perspective on Health (to include adult attachment, dispositional optimism/pessimism, locus of control, negative affectivity)
  • Social Capital
  • Gender and Health

Module 6: Stress, Mental Health & Ageing 

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. 

  • Models of Stress & Psychobiology
  • Sleep & Health
  • PsychoNeuroImmunology
  • Depression & Physical Illness 
  • Ageing
  • Stress Management Techniques 
  • Impact of Illness on the Family (to include children & caregiving)
  • Hospitalisation & Stressful Procedures
  • Quality of life
  • Stress in Medical Settings

Module 7: Chronic Illness from the Health Psychology Perspective

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). 

  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation (including goal-setting)
  • Diabetes
  • Pain
  • Sexual Health & HIV Research
  • Sleep & Health
  • Coping with Chronic Illness
  • Self management interventions
  • Impact of Screening

Module 8: Health Care & Intervention Delivery

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. 

  • Psychology of Public Health Crisis
  • Health Economics
  • Telehealth
  • Impact of Screening
  • Doctor-Patient Communication 1: Theory
  • Half-day observation of consultations between health care professionals & patients
  • Medical Decision-making
  • Working with Specialist Hospital Population
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Behaviour Change Interventions
  • Managing Change & Leadership
  • Doctor-Patient Communication 2: Reflection on observation of consultations

Journal Club

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.

Placements / Work Experience

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 and a maximum of 6 months. Some examples are National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, UCL School of Pharmacy, Renal Department Royal Free Hospital, International Longevity Centre UK, Weight Concern, Smokers’ and Weight Clinic Queen Mary, Cancer Research UK, MRC Clinical Trials Unit UCL, etc.

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.

This has led to a number of projects being published. See Research Projects tab for further information.

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 Methods

Assessment is through coursework (including critical and systematic reviews, essays), one unseen examination and the research project.

In addition, formative and summative assessments are conducted throughout the course of MSc to ensure effective student learning.

BPS accredited

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 & Tobacco Research; 16: 1050-1055 

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 Preventive Medicine; 66: 74-79

Gardner B, Sheals K, Wardle J, McGowan L (2014) Putting habit into practice, and practice into habit: a process evaluation and exploration of the acceptability of a habit-based dietary behaviour change intervention  International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity; 11:135

Richards B, McNeill A, Croghan E, Percival J, Ritchie D, McEwen A (2014) Smoking cessation education and training in UK nursing schools: A national survey Journal of Nursing Education and Practice; 4:188-198 

Tang MY, Shahab L, Robb KA, Gardner B (2014) Are parents more willing to vaccinate their children than themselves? Journal of Health Psychology

Farič N, Potts HWW (2014) Motivations for contributing to health-related articles on Wikipedia: An interview study Journal of Medical Internet Research; 16: e260

Silla K, Beard E, Shahab L (2014). Nicotine Replacement Therapy use among smokers and ex-smokers: associated attitudes and beliefs: A qualitative study BMC Public Health; 14: 1311

Gardner B, Corbridge S, McGowan L (2015) Do habits always override intentions? Pitting unhealthy snacking habits against snack-avoidance intentions BMC Psychology; 3:8

Toma A, Hamer M, Shankar A (2015) Associations between neighborhood perceptions and mental well-being among older adults Health & Place; 34: 46-53

Nelson V, Goniewiczb ML, Beard E, Brown J, Sheals K, West R, Shahab L(2015) Comparison of the characteristics of long-term users of electronic cigarettes versus nicotine replacement therapy: A cross-sectional survey of English ex-smokers and current smokers Drug and Alcohol Dependence; 153: 300-305

Jawad M, Choaie E, Brose L, Dogar O, Grant A, Jenkinson E, McEwen A, Millet C, Shahab L (2016) Waterpipe Tobacco Use in the United Kingdom: A Cross-Sectional Study among University Students and Stop Smoking Practitioners  PLoS ONE 11

Some project titles from 2013/14:

  • The long-term effects of e-cigarette and nicotine replacement therapy use
  • Examining the links between quality of life, work productivity, physical activity and sitting time in an occupational setting
  • Pre-existing cognitive dysfunction in patients with colo-rectal cancer 
  • Perceptions of obesity: unhealthy or just unattractive
  • Can Being Mindful Help You Change Your Smoking Behaviour?

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?
  • The impact of midlife tea and coffee consumption on cognitive decline in early old age in the Whitehall II cohort

BPS accredited

Leaver Destinations

Careers up-til 2013-14

Past Student Experiences

Aleksandra Herbec (MSc Health Psychology: 2012 - 2013)

Sundus Mahdi, UCL (MSc student: 2013-14)

As I was looking through the online prospectus of MSc Health Psychology, in all honesty there was not a module that seemed remotely boring. Additionally, as the course was assignment-based I felt that this worked well in controlling my stress-levels (and it did)! Throughout the course I felt that the teaching staff were extremely knowledgeable, with some of the top researchers in their respective fields delivering lectures personally. I particularly appreciated the work placements organised by the course for those wishing to gain work experience within the field of health and clinical psychology; some with highly reputable organisations such as IAPT and NICE. I appreciated the long list of available research projects advertised to students - these really tapped into the different interests and realms within health psychology, so there was a little something for everybody. My interests were centred on, though not limited to, obesity prevention. I undertook a research project on the predictors of weight gain prevention intentions. I devised a questionnaire that explored whether individuals were more motivated by health or appearance concerns to prevent weight gain, and whether this differed by age. My supervisors were highly supportive throughout the whole process, which made me love the research I was doing even more. This positive experience led me to ponder over a career within research. The research project was a fantastic opportunity and a learning process. It did indeed help me kick-start my career. I landed my first job as a Research Assistant in less than a month after completing my Masters. I now have to use essential skills taught to me on the course, such as how to conduct systematic reviews, carry out advanced statistical tests and how to devise questionnaires. 

Victoria Nelson, UCL (MSc student: 2013-14)

I first discovered the MSc Health Psychology programme at UCL in looking for a course to unify my background in psychology and biology with my interest in improving healthcare delivery. UCL thus became my obvious first choice in university due to its high research quality ratings and global perspective.

The course structure provided an effective balance of skill development and expert perspective.  Core instructors delivered a challenging curriculum which built my confidence in interpreting and disseminating health literature.  World-renowned researchers delivered lectures on specific health topics in their respective fields of expertise.  Opportunities were also provided to engage in conducting research, particularly through my MSc project on smoker identity and electronic cigarettes, and through a placement at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Overall, the Health Psychology course enabled me to develop a firm knowledge base, research skill set, and confidence to pursue a research career in healthcare.  I am currently pursuing positions in health research organisations with an evidence-based mission, and plan to eventually pursue a PhD in order to have a positive impact on healthcare delivery and policy.

Kate Sheals, PhD student, UCL (MSc student: 2012-2013)

I became interested in Health Psychology during my undergraduate degree, particularly in the role of psychology in reducing the impact of lifestyle related diseases such as those caused by smoking and obesity. UCL was my first choice of university to attend for the course, in part due to its reputation for excellence and further due to the breadth of topics covered during the course and the available opportunities for practical experience provided through placements.

I found the MSc to be enjoyable and engaging, with excellent teaching provided by experts in the topics covered. There were also excellent opportunities to become involved in research being conducted at UCL during the course, and to gain applied experience during the placement offered. During the course I gained knowledge of the practical and theoretical aspects of health psychology, alongside developing skills in research and statistics. This provided an excellent basis from which to pursue a career in research, and upon graduating from the course I secured a position as a research assistant within the Health Psychology Research Group at UCL. I am now a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL, researching the role of electronic cigarettes in harm reduction amongst people with mental illness.

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.

BPS accredited

Advice & Information Day

  • We now running Advice & Information sessions for you to know more about the programme. 
  • Next session for academic year 2016/17 will be held on  Thursday, 18 February 2016 from 11 am till 1 pm. Register by sending an email to 
  • The application process entails shortlisting and an interview. Places are allocated on a rolling basis. 

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. The stage 1 qualification will also be recognised retrospectively, if GBC has been completed following the MSc. 

Students explain the benefits of belonging to BPS

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: 29 July 2016



Tuition Fees (2016/17)

UK/EU: £9,020 (FT) and £4,510 (PT)

Overseas: £23,020 (FT) and £11,460 (PT)


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. 

From 2016, loans of up to £10,000 will be available to students studying postgraduate taught courses at UK universities, aged 30 and under.  They will be available to part-time and full-time students.

BPS accredited

Contact: Madiha Sajid for further information.

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 5683

Follow us on Twitter @uclhealth for news and information about Health Psychology and the course.