Healthy Mind, Healthy Body...
My name is Nicola Beer and I work as a Graduate Intern for the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation department at the University of Manchester. Prior to this, I completed a degree in Psychology (also at the University of Manchester) and I graduated in July this year.
As part of my degree I was required to undertake a final year project under the supervision of an academic researcher at the University of Manchester. One area that particularly interested me throughout my degree was Health Psychology and so I was pleased when the supervisor I was allocated to was a researcher in this area.
My research project involved investigating factors that influence people’s intentions to take on a particular health behaviour. The health behaviour that I focused on in my research was sexual health behaviour. More specifically, I focused on what influenced people to use a self-test kit to test themselves for STI infections.
In order to carry out my research, I tested factors from a theory used by many Health Psychologists, called Protection Motivation Theory. One factor from this model that is believed to influence people’s health behaviour is ‘self-efficacy’. Self-efficacy is defined as one’s belief in their own ability to change their behaviour; if they have high self-efficacy they are more likely to engage in positive health behaviours. Another factor is ‘fear’. Does how fearful someone is about a particular health outcome (e.g. obtaining a sexually transmitted disease, as I investigated in my research) influence the health behaviour they display?
In order to collect data for my research, I developed a questionnaire with my supervisor that contained questions designed to measure what influences peoples’ intentions to use a self-test kit. I ran various statistical tests on the questionnaire to check its internal consistency (whether several items that propose to measure the same general construct produce similar scores). It was then sent out to all first and second year undergraduate Psychology students who completed it online.
What I found…
I analysed the results using a hierarchical multiple regression and found, consistent with much other research in the area, that two factors significantly predicted individual’s intentions to self-test for Chlamydia. These factors were vulnerability and self-efficacy; therefore those who perceived themselves to be more vulnerable to the health risk, and those with higher self-efficacy, were more likely to intend to self-test, i.e. more likely to carry out the positive health behaviour.
What this means…
My research has practical applications to the real-world suggesting that increasing an individuals’ self-efficacy will result in them being more likely to use self-test kits. An example of this practical application could be to provide clear instructions with self-test kits with the aim of increasing individual’s confidence in their ability to use the kit.
My research was also useful in that it can be used to inform academics of future areas that research could be carried out in. For example, more research could go into examining further the role of fear in predicting behavioural intentions (which did not produce a significant result in my research).
I enjoyed my final year research project because I got the chance to use skills gained during my degree (e.g. statistical analysis and data collection skills) to carry out research into an area that interested me.
- The British Psychological Society (BPS) is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. Explore their website to find out more about Psychology and careers a Psychology graduate can go into: http://www.bps.org.uk/
- This website shows what kind of things Health Psychologists do as part of their job and will be useful if you are interested in finding out more about it as a career path: http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/explore-by-career/psychological-therapies/careers-in-psychological-therapies/psychologist/health-psychologist/
- This is the link to the webpages for the Manchester Centre for Health Psychology. It provides lots of information about the research going on at the University and events (such as seminars) that happen throughout the year: http://www.psych-sci.manchester.ac.uk/healthpsychology/