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Psychiatry Research

The focus of the Centre for Psychiatry’s research is on social and epidemiological psychiatry. The research addresses psychosocial, including cultural and environmental factors in the aetiology of mental disorders. Our studies investigate a range of psychosocial factors in school and community settings (e.g. Stephen Stansfeld, Kam Bhui: longitudinal associations between risk and protective factors for conduct disorder in multi-ethnic adolescents) and epidemiological and health services research (e.g. Kam Bhui: ethnicity and pathways to and access to care for socially excluded groups). Epidemiological methods are applied to investigate aetiological factors and the association of biological, psychological and socio-cultural mechanisms for psychiatric and medical disorders (e.g. Ania Korszun, Peter White, Ruth Taylor, Stephen Stansfeld: depression and coronary artery disease and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), somatic symptoms and mental disorders, and the influence of culture, class and the environment). Clinical outcome studies include evaluation of interventions in CFS.

Psychiatric epidemiology (led by Stephen Stansfeld, Kam Bhui) is studying the association of physical and social environmental factors and ethnicity with common mental disorders and affective disorders. The group also includes Ania Korszun, Reader, Jenny Head, Senior Lecturer in Statistics, Ruth Taylor, Senior Lecturer, Vicky Cattell, Senior Research Fellow in Sociology, Nasir Warfa, Lecturer and Charlotte Clark, Lecturer. The work on environmental factors include a series of studies on noise exposure and children’s health and cognition culminating in a recent European-funded project (RANCH) involving collaborators in the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain (Stephen Stansfeld, Charlotte Clark). This study found evidence of consistent exposure–effect associations between chronic aircraft noise exposure and children’s reading comprehension and recognition memory. Area effects on adolescent health in relation to our multiethnic East London Adolescent Cohort Study (RELACHS) have been explored in collaboration with Professor Sarah Curtis and colleagues in the Geography Department at Queen Mary. This has been funded by the ESRC, through project grant funding and as a part of an ESRC network on capability and resilience. This has also involved qualitative studies on social networks, use of public spaces and the effects of regeneration in East London. Cultural identity and acculturation are being examined as predictors of adolescent mental health in this study (Kam Bhui). In lifecourse psychosocial factors research, childhood predictors of adult depression and anxiety and inequalities in adult mental health are being explored through the MRC-funded biomedical follow up of the 1958 Birth Cohort, in collaboration with the Institute of Child Health at UCL. Psychosocial risk factors are examined in this study as well as in other cohort studies such as the Whitehall II Study, EMPIRIC and an MRC-funded collaboration with the Geography Department on the British Household Panel Survey where two foci have been on understanding social inequalities in mental health and the effects of discrimination on risk of common mental disorder (Kam Bhui). Psychosocial factors, including psychosocial work characteristics, are being studied in relation to common mental disorder in a range of cohort studies, trying to understand the meaning of these associations and the potential effects of confounding (Stansfeld, Head). There is evidence of differential predictors of physical symptoms and depressive symptoms in the Whitehall II Study. Psychosocial factors are also being examined as predictors of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Peter White) and unexplained somatic symptoms (Ruth Taylor). Interactions between psychosocial and biological factors are being studied in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Peter White) and the association of Depression and Coronary Heart Disease. The association between psychological distress and a range of subjective and objective indices of Coronary Heart Disease is based on original work in the Whitehall II Study followed up by work in the MIDSPAN Study and the Caerphilly Study (Stephen Stansfeld, Ania Korszun). The co-occurrence of physical and psychological distress increases the risk of future Coronary Heart Disease compared to having either physical illness or psychological distress alone. The potential mechanisms of these associations are studied through the response of the HPA axis and endothelial function in relation to both depression and heart disease with links to underlying genetic susceptibility (Ania Korszun, Stephen Stansfeld).

Health Services Research (led by Peter White) includes the MRC-funded multi-centre PACE trial, led by Peter White, evaluating CBT, graded exercise, adaptive pacing and usual medical care as treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, developed from an established programme of work on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As part of developing the cultural perspective on treatments for mental illness, an integral part of research in East London, Kam Bhui has led on a systematic review of pathways to inpatient care in different ethnic groups. Additionally, Kam Bhui and Stefan Priebe are collaborating on studies of different explanatory models of psychological distress and Schizophrenia across ethnic groups. The initial explanatory models study found that White patients cited biological explanations for their illness more frequently than Bangladeshis, African Caribbeans and West Africans. Bangladeshis and African Caribbeans cited social causes more frequently than biological causes. A biological explanatory model was associated with more satisfaction with treatment and better therapeutic relationships than a social explanatory model.

Our research environment is characterised by multidisciplinary behavioural sciences expertise organised in small focussed research groups that develop and support new researchers through close supervision and a lively academic environment including departmental and Institute-based research meetings. There are currently 12 PhD students registered within the Centre. These include 7 within epidemiological psychiatry and 5 within Health Services Research. Four non-clinical lecturers funded by EPSRC and the NHS typify a new generation of researchers in the Centre. The research groups are independent in order to have a maximum degree of flexibility and to be able to focus on specific themes, but collaborate on practical and theoretical levels. They are also strongly involved in local, national and international research networks and national (eg MRC Biomedical follow up of the 1958 Birth Cohort, being the coordinating centre of the multi-centre MRC funded PACE Trial for CFS). The Centre for Psychiatry has moved within the medical school from the Institute for Community Health Sciences to the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and is co-located there. This aligns one of our core strengths with the high level of expertise in epidemiology and statistics in the Wolfson Institute.

by Wolfson Institute Website Manager © Queen Mary, University of London 2011
Centre for Psychiatry, Old Anatomy Building, Barts and The London, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6BQ. Tel: 020 7882 2021 Fax: 020 7882 5728