Human
Sciences
Research
Centre

The Human Sciences Research Centre conducts theoretical and applied research into the prevention and treatment of diseases and into improvements to the quality of life for people of all ages.

What we do

People in the UK are living longer and the population is getting older. The UK population is projected to reach over 74 million by 2039, with 18% aged 65 and over. Consequently, effective approaches to healthy ageing have never been more important.

The Human Sciences Research Centre (HSRC) is playing a crucial role in tackling disease, enhancing physical and mental wellbeing, supporting behaviour change and promoting quality of life across all ages, making a significant contribution to the healthy ageing agenda.

Our research benefits individuals and society alike – changing, improving and saving lives.

Our impact

Increased life expectancy has brought opportunities and challenges in equal measure. Our research is intended to help people living independently remain active, productive and socially connected for longer. Our focus is on both the prevention and treatment of diseases but also on significantly improved quality of life.

The HSRC draws on the University’s internationally renowned and growing expertise in the disciplines of Biomedical Science, Psychology, Forensic Science, and Sport, Outdoor and Exercise Science. Our interdisciplinary approach enables us to offer fresh perspectives on issues that are significant at every stage of life from birth to old age. We use a translational approach, 'translating' our findings into real health improvements.

Our research covers subjects such as:

Our key research themes

A healthy start in life

Our pre- and post-natal scientific research provides vital insight into how air pollution and maternal nutrition can not only affect placental health and foetal development during pregnancy but also impact the potential risk of future disease. In a similar way, our psychological research into maternal health and the cognitive, motor and social development of newborns is enhancing our understanding of good foundations for health from an early age to maximise healthy ageing.

Enhancing mental health and wellbeing

We are leading the way in nature connectedness – a new research area attracting international recognition, demonstrating the positive benefits that can be derived from close engagement with the natural environment. This research in parallel with our expertise in areas such as exercise and physical activity provides a wealth of expertise in supporting individuals to harness personal control and transform their lives.  

We also have a growing international reputation for research in the field of compassion and mindfulness, delivering findings that can improve wellbeing through tackling issues of self-esteem and confidence, and fostering courage and sensitivity to support others. Our research into Maths anxiety, addiction, irrational thinking and eating behaviours come together in our drive to positively impact individual mental health and wellbeing.

Combating disease and promoting physical health

Our Biomedical Health research is deepening our understanding of the growing epidemic of obesity and linked metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes We are working with the NHS and pharmaceutical companies towards the discovery of novel biomarkers and drug targets as well as investigating the disease mechanisms.

Similarly, important research is under way into the human papillomavirus (HPV) and links to cancer of the neck and throat. Further investigation into HPV is of increasing importance since an vaccination was recently approved for all young girls and boys.

The increasing prevalence and debilitating effects of respiratory disease is harming quality of life. Our Sport Science research is being translated to the world of human health to pioneer innovative methods to prevent and treat conditions such as pneumonia and restore and enhance the lived experience of those suffering with respiratory disease.

In later age, not only respiratory disease but also accidental slips and falls can have devastating impact. Through our research into the physiological and psychological aspects of the ageing process in relation to increased trips and falls, we can delay and potentially prevent these processes and occurrences. This will benefit not only the individual but also society as a whole. 

Research with us

If you are interested in contributing to the research conducted in the HSRC and are considering applying to study for a research qualification with us, visit our research qualifications page.

If you would like to discuss our research or would like to know more about potential study opportunities within the centre, contact Dr Sally Akehurst, Head of our School of Human Science, on s.akehurst@derby.ac.uk.