PUBLISHED WORK

Selected publications from our group. Please see the Our Members section for more publications. 

2020

We examined whether the Social Cure (SC) perspective explains the efficacy of a Social Prescribing (SP) pathway which addresses healthcare needs through enhancing social connections. Data were collected at pathway entry from patients with long-term health conditions, or who felt isolated/lonely/anxious (N = 630), then again 4 months later (N = 178), and 6-9 months later (N = 63). Being on the pathway was associated with increased group memberships between T0 and T1. The relationship between increased group memberships and quality-of-life was serially mediated by belonging, support and loneliness. This study is the first to show SP enhances health/well-being via SC mechanisms.

2020

Cohesive, resilient communities are vital to the well‐being of residents. Uncovering the determinants of successful community identities is therefore essential to progressing the community health agenda. Engaging in community participation through volunteering may be one pathway to building local community identity and enhancing residents’ health and well‐being but the group processes connecting them remain unexplored. We conducted two studies investigated these dynamics using the ‘Social Cure’ perspective. First, we analysed 53 in‐depth interviews with volunteers, finding that community relationships shaped their experiences and that volunteering influenced their sense of community belonging, support, and well‐being. Second, a community survey (N =619) revealed that volunteering predicts well‐being through the serial mediators of community identification and social support. Our paper demonstrates the Social Cure processes involved in community‐based volunteering, their impact on community identity, support and well‐being, and the implications for community health, and the provision and sustainability of community voluntary action and interventions.

2020

Family financial stress research has typically examined negative effects of deprivation on mental health, which in turn erode financial coping. While this work acknowledges family support’s role in buffering these effects, it has typically overlooked how family identification can act to structure the experience of, and response to, economic challenge. We adopt a Social Identity approach, arguing that family identification predicts increased social support and improved well-being, which predicts more effective coping with financial problems. We explore this in two community surveys (N=369; N=187). In the first we show that stronger family identification and support predict better well-being, which predicts better evaluation of economic coping. In the second we replicate these findings, and also show that the relationship between well-being and financial distress is fully mediated by perceptions of ‘Collective Family Financial Efficacy’. These findings point to a more positive understanding of how family cohesion can promote mental well-being/resilience.

2019

A substantial literature supports the important role that social group memberships play in enhancing health. While the processes through which group memberships constitute a “Social Cure” are becoming increasingly well defined, the mechanisms through which these groups contribute to vulnerability and act as a “Social Curse” are less understood. We present an overview of the Social Cure literature and then go beyond this to show how the processes underpinning the health benefits of group membership can also negatively affect individuals through their absence. First, we provide an overview of early Social Cure research. We then describe later research concerning the potential health benefits of identifying with multiple groups, before moving on to consider the “darker side” of the Social Cure by exploring how intra‐group dynamics can foster Curse processes. Finally, we synthesise evidence from both the Cure and Curse literatures to highlight the complex interplay between these phenomena and how they are influenced by both intra‐ and inter‐group processes. We conclude by considering areas we deem vital for future investigation within the discipline.

2019

Objectives This study aimed to assess the degree to which the ‘social cure’ model of psychosocial health captures the understandings and experiences of healthcare staff and patients in a social prescribing (SP) pathway and the degree to which these psychosocial processes predict the effect of the pathway on healthcare usage.
Design Mixed-methods: Study 1: semistructured interviews; study 2: longitudinal survey.
Setting An English SP pathway delivered between 2017 and 2019.
Participants Study 1: general practitioners (GPs) (n=7), healthcare providers (n=9) and service users (n=19). Study 2: 630 patients engaging with SP pathway at a 4-month follow-up after initial referral assessment.
Intervention Chronically ill patients experiencing loneliness referred onto SP pathway and meeting with a health coach and/or link worker, with possible further referral to existing or newly created relevant third-sector groups.
Main outcome measure Study 1: health providers and users’ qualitative perspectives on the experience of the pathway and social determinants of health. Study 2: patients’ primary care usage.
Results Healthcare providers recognised the importance of social factors in determining patient well-being, and reason for presentation at primary care. They viewed SP as a potentially effective solution to such problems. Patients valued the different social relationships they created through the SP pathway, including those with link workers, groups and community. Group memberships quantitatively predicted primary care usage, and this was mediated by increases in community belonging and reduced loneliness.
Conclusions Methodological triangulation offers robust conclusions that ‘social cure’ processes explain the efficacy of SP, which can reduce primary care usage through increasing social connectedness (group membership and community belonging) and reducing loneliness. Recommendations for integrating social cure processes into SP initiatives are discussed.

2018

Food insecurity in developed countries has increased rapidly. Research has suggested that stigma may inhibit food‐aid help‐seeking, but has failed to determine how such barriers might be overcome. Adopting a social identity perspective, this study explored the processes involved in food‐aid helping transactions and sought to identify conditions that facilitate positive helping outcomes. Interviews were conducted with 18 clients and 12 volunteers at two English foodbanks, and a theoretically guided thematic analysis was conducted. Two primary themes were identified: ‘Here to Help’ and ‘The Legitimate Recipient’. This article offers a distinct and novel contribution by applying a social identity perspective to foodbank helping transactions, thereby demonstrating how group dynamics and behaviours are integral to these interactions, and by moving beyond the typical ‘Social Curse’ focus on barriers to help‐seeking to explore how such obstacles may be overcome. Suggestions for addressing stigma‐laden helping transactions and promoting successful delivery of aid are provided.

2019

Over 29,000 foreign nationals are detained yearly in British Immigration Removal Centres for undefined periods. This study investigated the role played by social identities in the way detainees are affected by, make sense of, and deal with detention. An opportunity sample of 40 detainees was interviewed on topics including support, identity, and well‐being, and data were analysed using theoretical thematic analysis. Participants struggled with loss of social networks, loss of rights, loss of agency, and joining a stigmatised group. Social identities guided exchange of support, aided meaning‐making, and mitigated distrust, serving as ‘Social Cures’. However, shared identities could also be sources of burden, ostracism, and distress, serving as ‘Social Curses’. Inability to maintain existing identities or create new ones fuelled feelings of isolation. Participants also reported rejection/avoidance of social identities to maximise their benefits. This study is the first to apply the Social Identity Approach to the experience of immigration detention.

 
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