Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Suzan Hassan

My PhD Title: Exploring factors that contribute to health behaviours in people with severe mental illness to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease: A mixed-methods approach.

Supervisor: Dr Kate Walters

Lay summary:   An earlier mortality rate is observed in people with severe mental illness (SMI) compared to the general population, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the main contributors. This has partly been explained by poorer health behaviours among people with SMI including smoking, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Therefore, targeting health behaviours may not only reduce health-related problems, but also the need for and reliance on physical health medications. Consequently, interventions in this area have focused on promoting healthy changes. However, targeting sustained lifestyle changes can be complex due to the challenges of coping with mental health symptoms and side-effects of antipsychotic medications. An understanding of factors that contribute toward lifestyle outcomes and changes in this population may inform future lifestyle services, where modifications can be made to care plans to suit individual requirements, potentially increasing the effectiveness of interventions. The aim of my PhD is to therefore identify: 1. Quantitative predictors of long-term lifestyle outcomes and changes and 2. The barriers and facilitators of supporting lifestyle changes in existing models of care for people with SMI.

My Background My interest in pursuing a PhD began with completing a Bachelors in Psychology. During my degree I completed a year-long research placement at the Institute of Psychiatry in Psychosis studies where I worked on a variety of mental health related projects. During my time here, I quickly realised my interest for mental health research and proceeded to complete a Masters in Psychiatric Research. Since then, I have been employed in various research settings gaining first-hand experience of understanding the impact of research on improving patient care. I worked on a combination of mental health and health psychology related research projects and became interested in both fields. My research project is therefore framed around a combination of both mental health and health psychology knowledge, combining both my interests.


Master of Science (MSc) in Psychiatric Research from King's College London.

Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Psychology from University of Westminster.


My PhD is supported by an award funded by NIHR School for Primary Care Research.


Hassan S, Bennett K, Serfaty M. (2018). Delivering cognitive behavioural therapy to advanced cancer patients: A qualitative exploration into therapists' experiences within a UK psychological service. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy;1-10. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.2190