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MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Measurement and Analysis of Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Measurement and Analysis of Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health

June 2019 studentship topics

Note: The topics below are indicative. Student-led applications/topics relevant to the Unit and Programmes (ie on related topics with different supervisors) are also very welcome.

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Measurement and Analysis of Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health

Investigating health inequalities in India using existing data
Lead supervisor: Dr Vittal Katikireddi
Inequalities in health outcomes across social groups have been observed across the world and throughout history. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, health inequalities are likely to be particularly complex in India. For example, differences in health are likely between gender, socioeconomic, caste and religious groups. This PhD project will analyse existing quantitative data for insights into the social patterning of health outcomes, their trends over time and exploring which political and economic factors shape them. Potential datasets for analysis include census data, the Sample Registration System, the Annual Health Survey and the Demographic and Health Surveillance Survey.

Understanding and resolving divergences in the social patterning of childhood obesity and overweight data
Lead supervisor: Dr Linsay Gray
Data from Scotland indicate that childhood obesity prevalence levels are at an all time high. Effective formulation and evaluation of actions require reliable and consistent data sources and an understanding of what drives obesity and overweight. A key factor impacting on risk of obesity/overweight is socioeconomic status. Data from the annual Scottish Health Survey indicate narrowing of the socioeconomic inequality gap in childhood overweight/obesity, however, data collected over time on Scottish Primary 1 school pupils indicate the opposite. This PhD will explore the explanations for and find solutions to this divergence through record linkage to administrative sources.

The health of looked after children in Scotland
Lead supervisor: Dr Denise Brown
Looked after children are at risk of poorer educational outcomes and reduced life chances, but little is known in Scotland about the relationship between health and being looked after. This project will examine how the health of school-age looked after children compares to children in the general population. Data linkage is underway, with individual data being linked to a range of health data and other important factors. Standardised illness rates will be compared between groups, across all of Scotland and by deprivation category, and survival models will be used to examine what affects the duration of time until poor health.

Utilising clustering within surveys and trials to examine social environmental influences on health behaviours and inequalities
Lead supervisor: Dr Anna Pearce
Risky health behaviours, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, are a major contributor to morbidity and mortality and are often initiated during adolescence. Social environments and health behaviour norms, which operate at different levels (from proximal – e.g. family and friends, to more distal – e.g. schools and neighbourhoods), exert a powerful influence over young people’s health behaviours and contribute to health inequalities. This quantitative PhD project will use information collected in clustered surveys and randomised controlled trials to better understand how these factors accumulate and interact to affect health behaviours and identify policy approaches most likely to reduce inequalities.

Social media use in young people: what are the consequences for health and health inequalities?
Supervisors: Dr Anna Pearce, Dr S Vittal Katikireddi, Dr Marion Henderson
Young people are increasingly socialising online, with the health consequences poorly understood. Social media use may negatively influence health by substituting other forms of social interaction, supporting sedentary behaviour and exposing young people to cyber-bulling. In contrast, recent declines in alcohol consumption may be a consequence of a shift from physical to virtual interactions. This quantitative project will use questionnaire and time-use data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study to examine the type and duration of social media activities, associations with health and behaviours, and the extent to which social media use moderates or mediates socio-economic inequalities in health.

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