The Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health at University College London is dedicated to research on how human behaviour impacts health and health outcomes. It is an interdisciplinary academic department involving specialists in health psychology, epidemiology, public health, genetics, nutrition, exercise science, clinical medicine and aging. The primary focus is on health behaviours (tobacco use, alcohol, physical activity, diet), social factors and psychobiological processes relevant to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cognitive decline. Research in the Department relates to prevention, early detection of long-term conditions, and the support of people with illnesses such as cancer and dementia. Together with the closely linked Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, the Department houses key longitudinal population cohort studies such as the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the Whitehall II study.
Work on mental health well-being and physical health has been an emerging focus of research over the past 15 years. This has included epidemiological research into associations between different aspects of positive mental well-being and mortality, healthy life expectancy and disability, studies of the biological and behavioural processes linking mental well-being with physical disease risk, and intervention studies. The UCL group provides a complementary perspective to the Harvard Center on this field of emerging importance.
The Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness was established at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2016. The overarching goal of the Center is to build a rigorous, interdisciplinary science to understand the interplay between psychological well-being and physical health for the benefit of individuals and communities around the globe. Focusing on two pillars—basic science research, and translation and communication—the Center aims to develop tools to measure more accurately well-being and to translate scientific findings to influence public health practice and policy. The Center serves as a platform for collaboration across multiple disciplines, including health communications, psychology, sociology, exercise physiology, basic biology, medicine, epidemiology, and population science, and strives to make significant contributions to science while translating research results into real-world impact.
Recently, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health identified the promotion of well-being as one of its key frontiers of focus. This new course highlights the importance of identifying new ways to measure and foster well-being, encouraging participants to explore and define the linkages between health and how we feel, interact, and live.
Statement from the Deans of UCL and
Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health
On behalf of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and University College London, we are delighted to support the launch of this new joint teaching initiative exploring the links between mental well-being and population health. Psychosocial factors play a role in many of the leading causes of death around the world. While much attention has been paid to understanding how psychological distress (e.g., depression, anxiety) contributes to disease development, work pioneered by leading researchers at our institutions has shown that positive psychological well-being may uniquely contribute to maintaining good health and increasing longevity. This short course is designed to bring faculty from our institutions together to introduce the next generation of scholars to the cutting-edge science that sits at the nexus of epidemiology, social science, psychology, and medicine with the goal of stimulating novel, interdisciplinary work that supports a healthier tomorrow for generations to come.
Graham Hart, Dean, Faculty of Population Health Sciences, UCL
Michelle A. Williams, Dean, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Andrew Steptoe is Head of the Department of Behavioural Science and Health at UCL, and Director of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. He also directs the psychobiology research group at UCL. He was appointed British Heart Foundation professor of psychology at UCL from 2000-2016, and also served as Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and Director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care from 2011-2017. He is a Past-President of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine and is a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Psychological Society, Academia Europaea, and the Academy of Social Sciences. His research interests include psychosocial aspects of aging, links between mental and physical health, childhood obesity, health behaviour change, and the psychobiology of stress.
Laura Kubzansky is professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, co-director of the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, and director of the Society and Health Laboratory at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She also serves as co-director of the JPB Environmental Health Fellowship Program. Dr. Kubzansky has published extensively on the role of psychological and social factors in health. She also conducts research on whether stress, emotion, and other psychological factors help to explain the relationship between social status and health. Other research projects and interests, include a) biological mechanisms linking emotions, social relationships, and health; b) relationships between early childhood environments, resilience, and healthy aging; and; c) how psychosocial stress or assets may interact with toxic environmental exposures (e.g., lead, air pollution) to influence health.