Welcome to the Behaviour and Health Research Unit - Cambridge

We are now recruiting!

We are now seeking to appoint a Research Associate in psychology/behavioural science to assist in conducting research on public acceptability of interventions to change behaviour.

The successful appointee will conduct research to address the following question: Does presenting the effectiveness of an intervention at reducing health inequalities increase its acceptability?

For further details on this post, including how to apply please click here.

Closing date: 8th September 2016

Interviews will be held: morning of 16th September 2016

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The Behaviour and Health Research Unit contributes evidence to national and international efforts to achieve sustained behaviour change to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.

The main focus of our work is on developing effective ways of changing four sets of behaviour – smoking, excessive consumption of food and alcohol, and physical inactivity. Changing theses behaviours positively would help to prevent the majority of the preventable non-communicable diseases, including many cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Further information about the BHRU can be found on our research, publications, and team member pages.

Presenting images of negative health outcomes leads to healthier food choices

Presenting images of negative health outcomes leads to healthier food choices

In an experimental study published in Health Psychology, we examine the impact on people’s choices of presenting food images paired with positive or negative images of the health consequences of eating those foods. We found that presenting images of negative health outcomes led to more healthy food choices, irrespective of whether they were paired with images of energy-dense snack foods or of fruit. Images of positive health outcomes did not alter food choices.

These results are consonant with a large and diverse body of research in psychology and public health showing that negative stimuli tend to have more impact on cognition and behaviour than positive stimuli. This work provides insights relevant to health communication interventions where aversive visual images are used to alter the consumption of products that impact on human health.

Pairing images of unhealthy and healthy foods with images of negative and positive health consequences: impact on attitudes and food choice. Hollands & Marteau. 2016

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Alcohol warning advertising reduces urge to drink in young adults

Alcohol warning advertising reduces urge to drink in young adults

Our study published on 8th July evidences how advertisements that warn about the health risks of alcohol have the potential to reduce alcohol consumption at the population level. There is currently limited evidence regarding the effectiveness of these advertisements, and few advertisements of this nature have been produced in the UK in recent years.

In an online pilot study of 152 young adult drinkers, we found that those who had been randomized to view alcohol warning adverts reported reduced urges to drink alcohol compared to those randomized to view either alcohol promoting or non-alcohol adverts.

This effect was fully explained by displeasure felt in response to the warning adverts, indicating that media campaigns that can produce negative affect about the health consequences of alcohol use can reduce the desire to drink.

Viewing alcohol warning advertising reduces urges to drink in young adults: an online experiment. Stautz K, Marteau TM.

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BHRU Annual Lecture Video – Electronic cigarettes: a disruptive technology?

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Our BHRU Annual Lecture, held 21st April 2016 at The Gillespie Centre – Clare College, saw Professor Linda Bauld (University of Stirling) present current research on e-cigarettes as well as outlining the regulatory framework for these devices, and the changes that would come into effect following the introduction of the EU Tobacco Products Directive on the 20th May, 2016.

Does alcohol marketing lead to increased drinking?

Does alcohol marketing lead to increased drinking?

In a systematic review, published 9th June, 2016 in BMC Public Health, we combined data from randomized, experimental studies that investigated the immediate effects of viewing alcohol marketing on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related cognitions.

Combining results from 7 studies with 758 participants, we found that individuals who viewed alcohol advertising consumed more alcohol than those who viewed non-alcohol advertising. We conclude that these findings lend qualified support to the public health case for restrictions, bans, or other policies that would reduce exposure to alcohol advertising on visual broadcast media to reduce alcohol consumption at the population level.

Immediate effects of alcohol marketing communications and media portrayals on consumption and cognition: a systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies. Stautz K*, Brown KG*, King SE, Shemilt I, Marteau TM. (* = joint first authors)

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How does the public judge nudging to cut sugary drinks?

How does the public judge nudging to cut sugary drinks?

How acceptable do people find nudges such as reducing bottle sizes of sugary drinks to prevent obesity? Does highlighting the non-conscious nature of nudging affect their acceptability? The results of our recent study published 8th June, 2016, conducted with over 2000 UK and USA participants, show that most people find such “nudges” to be acceptable interventions to prevent obesity.

Although, highlighting the non-conscious nature of nudges does not alter their acceptability, the study found that taxing sugary drinks, was only acceptable to a minority. But for both nudging and taxing, the acceptability of the intervention increased the more effective participants judged them to be. This suggests people are prepared to trade off dislike of an intervention for achieving a valued goal, such as tackling obesity.

Public acceptability in the UK and USA of nudging to reduce obesity: the example of reducing sugar-sweetened beverages consumption. Petrescu DC, Hollands GJ, Couturier DL, Ng YL, Marteau TM.

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