Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Emma Walker

Emma Walker picture

Title:  Social, economic and cultural capital & health: exploring independent associations between cultural engagement and health - a biosocial analysis of biomarkers and self-rated health in the Understanding Society dataset.

Summary: Emerging evidence has shown that cultural activities, such as singing or attending a concert, are good for our health. However, if patterns of cultural engagement are examined, it is usually seen that people who engage culturally are socioeconomically advantaged. For example, they may be wealthier, more social, have higher occupational grades or parents with higher educational levels. These more advantaged people are also more likely to have better health, and so it is unclear as to whether cultural engagement is beneficial, irrespective of a person’s socioeconomic position. Therefore, in my PhD, I examine these associations using data from the UK representative longitudinal survey, Understanding Society. My research has a particular focus on biological health outcomes, such as stress hormone levels and immune function, as well as self-reported physical and mental health. 

Biography: Emma holds a 1st class BSc in Cell and Molecular Biology from University College, Durham and an MSc in Medicine, Health and Public Policy from Kings College, London. She joined UCL in September 2018 on the Soc-B Centre for Doctoral Training in Biosocial research programme. Here, her interests in the social determinants of health broadened to consider the complex associations between cultural resources and activities, and health inequalities. Whilst at UCL, she has developed a passion for science communication and has appeared on Sky News and BBC Radio 4, and has set up a podcast, The Biosocial Researcher. In June 2021, Emma won the Faculty of Population Health 3 Minute Thesis competition. 

Supervisors: Professor Anne McMunn, Dr Daisy Fancourt, Professor Meena Kumari.