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Quantifying the real time impact of public health events on the mental health of the population (LAKEI1_U21NIHRPHE)

   School of Environmental Sciences

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  Prof Iain Lake, Prof Gillian Smith  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Norwich United Kingdom Data Analysis Epidemiology Meteorology Computer Science Statistics

About the Project

This PhD is part of the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between Public Health England, King’s College London and the University of East Anglia ( 

Scientific Background 

For many emergency events ranging from floods to infectious disease outbreaks, the mental health effects on the population may be large (i). COVID-19 has caused unprecedented impact on our population, including considerable mental health impacts (ii). Yet our ability to monitor the mental health consequences of events on the population in real-time (i.e. day to day) is limited. This PhD provides an exciting opportunity to explore the potential of data on those consulting with health care services to provide early warning of mental health impacts and follow these through events (iii). Such information may be used to develop early interventions. This PhD will build on work undertaken by PHE, The Oxford-Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre, and UEA to explore the impact of COVID-19 on health care usage (iv).   

Research Methodology 

At the outset you will explore methods through which information on population mental health can be extracted from primary care databases to develop indicators of mental health. Using these methods, you will then extract mental health indicators for several previous events (e.g. flooding, school closures) to explore their impact on mental health. Finally, you will design tools (e.g. user-centric dashboards) to feedback such information to GPs / incident directors in real time. 


You will be trained in the analysis and interpretation of large datasets using statistical and machine learning techniques. The PhD will offer a great opportunity to gain skills in epidemiological methods. Working with PHE provides access to infectious disease experts and public health practitioners.  

For more information on the supervisor for this project please go here:

The start date is 1st October 2021. The mode of study is full time. The studentship length is 3 years.

Entry Requirements

Enthusiastic with a first degree (1st or 2:1) or Masters in a quantitative discipline. Experience of Public Health, Epidemiology and statistics would be advantageous. You will have an interest and ability to handle large datasets and a keen interest in how primary care and other real-time data can be used to inform public health. 


UEA Campus, Norwich / PHE Birmingham

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Public Health England (PHE). Funding is available to UK applicants only and includes home tuition fees, an annual stipend of £15,609 per annum (for a maximum of 36 months paid directly to the successful candidate by PHE).


i) Goldmann, E., Galea, S. (2014) Mental health consequences of disasters. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, pp. 169-183.
ii) Pfefferbaum, B., North, C.S. (2020) Mental Health and the Covid-19 Pandemic. The New England journal of medicine, 383 (6), pp. 510-512.
iii) Smith, G.E., Elliot, A.J., Lake, I., et al., (2019) Syndromic surveillance: Two decades experience of sustainable systems – Its people not just data! epidemiology and Infection, 147, art. no. e101.
iv) PHE (2020) COVID-19: mental health and wellbeing surveillance report. Available:
v) Mansfield KE, Mathur R, Tazare J, Henderson AD, Mulick AR, Carreira H, et al. Indirect acute effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental health in the UK: a population-based study. Lancet Digit Health 2021.