The Healthy Ageing and Mental Wellbeing Research Centre is a community of researchers from the College of Science and Engineering, and the College of Health, Psychology, and Social Care. Researchers in the centre conduct research ranging from lab-based biomedical research to community-based behavioural and experiential research. This enables us to approach ageing and wellbeing issues in a very holistic way. It also enables us to firstly develop new knowledge and understanding, but then also to translate this knowledge into effective applications that can make a difference to people’s lives.
The Healthy Ageing and Mental Wellbeing Research Centre is part of our Biomedical and Clinical Science academic theme and involves a large community of around 100 active researchers who undertake research in two ‘clusters’:
We interpret the terms ‘healthy ageing’ and ‘mental wellbeing’ very broadly, and the centre includes a wide range of approaches to improving people’s health and wellbeing across the human lifespan, not just in old age. The disciplines involved include biomedical science, psychology, forensic sciences, public health, data sciences and others.
The aim of the Research Centre is to conduct research that provides the types of evidence that can be translated into practical measures to improve health and wellbeing, or translated into proposals for policy change to improve the environments in which people live and age.
The aims of the centre are to provide the knowledge and understanding needed to help people age more healthily and improve their mental wellbeing. To achieve those aims, we draw on bioscience expertise in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, proteomics, lipidomics and developmental biology but also in psychology expertise including interviewing, survey design, scale development, and development of theory-based therapeutic interventions.
The centre includes over 50 core members and over 100 collaborators and associates from inside and outside the University, who work with us in different ways. This means we can offer a very broad range of professional expertise, including clinical scientists, health practitioners, medics, behavioural scientists and many others. We also have strong links with external organisations, including NHS Trusts, patient organisations, charities and industry, and we very much welcome external collaborations and partnerships.
“Meeting many of the challenges facing humanity depends on behaviour change, think of climate change, global conflicts, violence, as well as mental health, suicide prevention – it is therefore important for any group of people dedicated to contributing to facing any of those challenges to include a behavioural approach, and the Healthy Aging and Mental Wellbeing Research Centre includes researchers who have applied psychological and behavioural approaches to addressing some of these key challenges.” - Professor James Elander
"With the growing ageing population, there is need to increase healthy years by delaying ageing and maintaining high functional ability as we age. We therefore synergise basic science, clinical science and psychology to understand and analyse ageing. We have experts in biomarker discovery and development for the identification of predictive and diagnostic biomarkers of age-related diseases as well as novel therapeutic targets. We are keen to contribute to the development of biomarkers to monitor ageing, interventions that slow down ageing and to create personalized approaches to extend healthy life span." - Dr Stella Ademowo
Dr Stella Ademowo has been part of a clinical trial investigating the effect of nutrients, specifically carotenoid supplementation, on Dementia. Oxidative stress was found to be related to patients’ mini mental state examination score and the role of antioxidants such as the carotenoids were investigated in this project. Other age-related disease that has been investigated include chronic kidney diseases. Recently we have been interested in investigating an important hallmark of ageing, cellular senescence and we are working closely with other networks to understand the role of cellular senescence in ageing and age-related diseases.
The psychology research includes several projects on different aspects of women’s health, conducted by Jane Montague, Fiona Holland, Sophie Williams and others, including several external collaborators such as Stephanie Archer and Elly Phillips. A key strength of this group of researchers is their expertise in qualitative methods, which they have used to investigate women’s experiences of infertility, gynaecological cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other conditions that affect women.
One project recently undertaken by psychology researchers in the centre focused on occupational aspects of long-COVID and the experiences of people returning from work after an extended period of absence because of COVID-19. In this project led by Jenny Lunt, research findings based on survey and interview methods were translated into recommendations for employers and occupational health practitioners to make more effective workplace accommodations for people returning to work after illness with COVID-19. Jenny Lunt said:
“The findings shed light on the importance of regularly reviewed flexible working arrangements for allowing workers, not just those with long COVID but also other long-term conditions with unpredictable symptoms, to stay at work. In a context where we are seeing an escalation in ill-health retirement amongst over the over fifties, such flexibility could also be a crucial way of boosting national productivity and prevent loss of valued skill sets and individuals from the workplace.”
The Holistic Health and Wellbeing Research Cluster includes a group of researchers led by William Van Gordon, Frances Maratos and Caroline Harvey, who conduct research on compassion, contemplation and emotion regulation.
The Healthy Ageing and Neurodegeneration Research Cluster includes a group of researchers led by David Sheffield and Peter Macauley, who conduct research on Health and Wellbeing.
The Biomedical Science research team have expertise in cell and molecular biology, omics technology, imaging techniques and reverse genetics. Here the team investigate developmental biology and the hallmarks of ageing including autophagy, autoimmunity, dysbiosis, mitochondrial function, cellular senescence, nutrient sensing, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis and altered intercellular communication in age related diseases.
Research Centre events
There are a number of events associated with the Research Centre. One of these is the series of lunchtime psychology research seminars, in which members of the School of Psychology and their collaborators present work in progress, recently completed or published findings, and plans for research. These are hybrid (face-to-face and remotely, via Teams) events that take place on Wednesday lunchtimes 12pm to 1pm.
The Biomedical researchers also participate in the Human Science Research seminars where they showcase their work. This hybrid (face-to-face and remotely, via Teams) event takes place the last Wednesday of the month 4pm to 5pm.
If you would like to attend any of these sessions, please contact Professor James Elander or Dr Stella Ademowo.
If you are interested in our research and would like to find out more, would like to join our research cluster or are applying for a PhD in this research area, please contact Professor James Elander (email@example.com) or Dr Stella Ademowo (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.