Research Methods

The main research methods used by the group are the following:

Laboratory methods:

We use laboratory methods to test the influence of stress and other psychological factors on biological responses. These studies involve assessing patients or healthy people individually in the laboratory, measuring biological variables in response to challenging mental tasks, physical exercise, and other stimuli. A wide range of biological variables are measured, including blood pressure, heart rate and heart rate variability, cardiac output and total peripheral vascular resistance, cortisol, insulin, glucose, cholesterol and its sub-fractions, immune cells such as natural killer cells, cytokines including interleukin-6 and tumour necrosis factor alpha, cytokine gene expression, fibrinogen, von Willebrand factor, factor VIII, plasma viscosity, and blood platelet activation.

Naturalistic or ambulatory methods:

These methods involve the measurement of biological responses in everyday life. The principle techniques that we use include the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), ambulatory blood pressure monitoring with repeated measurement over the day using non-invasive portable blood pressure monitoring devices, and measurements of cortisol from saliva samples. These biological assessments are accompanied by diary ratings of location, physical activity, mood and social activity.

Interview and questionnaire methods:

We use a combination of standard questionnaire measures, newly developed measures, and interview techniques to assess the psychological and social experience of participants in our studies. The measures vary between studies, but include assessments of work stress, social networks and supports, psychological coping, anger and hostility, sense of control, health behaviour, self-efficacy, risk awareness, financial strain, quality of life and self-rated health. We have developed a measure of neighbourhood problems to assess day-to-day strain in people's local environments.

Methods of behaviour change:

Some of our studies are concerned with encouraging changes in lifestyle and health behaviour in the context of health promotion. In these studies, we have developed behaviourally-orientated intervention techniques based on Social Cognitive Theory and the Stages of Change model.

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