Department of Psychology

Essex ESNEFT Psychological Research Unit for Behaviour, Health and Wellbeing (EEPRU)

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The Research Unit established in 2022 is a collaboration between the University of Essex and East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT).

The unit is funded by a £1m research grant that supports doctoral students and research staff who aim to explain behavioural and psychological processes in the development, onset, prevention, early detection, management and progression of illness, and promotion of health and wellbeing. Unit members work closely with clinical, allied health professional, and public health teams at ESNEFT on different research projects.

The Unit supports the department’s research activity that fosters “Understanding our place in the world” by helping to discern how people think about illness, experience illness, and respond to illness threat, and the role of social interactions in this process. The Unit also has research relationships across the wider university, including working in partnership with the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing.

EEPRU Clinician Associates

Dr Tania Gudu

Consultant Rheumatologist, ESNEFT

Dr Tania Gudu PhD is a Consultant Rheumatologist at ESNEFT who works one day a week at EEPRU collaborating with psychology staff on projects relating to arthritis and chronic pain.

 Dr Ben Marlow

Clinical Director, ESNEFT Synapse Centre for Neurodevelopment

Dr Ben Marlow is a Consultant Paediatrician at ESNEFT and Clinical Director of the ESNEFT Synapse Centre for Neurodevelopment. He also collaborates on projects with the “Essex Babylab”.

Current projects

Improving outcomes in dialysis patients through promotion of effective self-regulation

This project benefits from a collaborative PhD scholarship that is jointly funded by the ESRC via SENSS and ESNEFT. 2020-2024.

Optimal management of many diseases requires patients to make behavioural changes, with which they struggle. Limitations in the existing evidence base indicate the need to identify self-regulatory processes that might be targets for psychological intervention within health care settings.

This project aims to develop and test a comprehensive account of self-regulation in chronic disease, with immediate relevance to care of dialysis patients and to chronic disease management generally.


The role of partner support in chronic disease outcomes

Patient care and disease management are typically treated as individual concerns rather than as a social process involving interactions between the patient and his or her partner.

This project offers an exciting opportunity to develop and test a comprehensive account of how partner interactions impact chronic disease, with immediate relevance to care of arthritis patients.

This project benefits from a PhD Scholarship that is jointly funded by the ESRC via SENSS and EEPRU for 2023-2027. If you are interested in applying for this scholarship please email Dr Veronica Lamarche (


Public Understanding of Kidney Disease

The ways in which people understand illness, known as illness representations, are an important guide to how they interpret and respond to symptoms.

We are currently running a study to investigate public representations of kidney disease. If you are over 18 years and would like to take part in the study you can do so online.

We are interested to hear from anybody, whether they have experience of kidney disease or not.

Take part online


A nature-based intervention to improve mental health: Efficacy of an angling intervention for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

Research at the Department of Psychology at Essex showed that a brief 1-2 day peer supported angling experience had benefits for the wellbeing of military veterans with PTSD.

This project funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme, will contribute to providing crucial evidence that might enable nature-based interventions like this to become a part of health prescribing policy. 

Read more about this project


Investigating the social and emotional consequences of adult-onset craniopharyngioma

Many physical health conditions can alter hormone production in the body. These changes in hormone production can have important consequences for behaviour, health and wellbeing but these changes are not well understood.

Social relationships are a key part of who we are, and their success can improve how we feel. Individuals who struggle to maintain relationships have an increased risk of developing physical and mental health disorders.

This project will assess the specific social difficulties patients with a rare type of brain tumor, called adult-onset craniopharyngioma experience. Craniopharyngiomas affect the pituitary gland’s ability to produce hormones.

To date, few studies have investigated the psychological impact of craniopharyngiomas. This project will provide the first in-depth understanding of how this diagnosis affects patient’s lives outside of the clinic.

Related papers


Advancing habit theory and its application to real-world behaviour change: Bridging the theory-practice gap

This project benefits from a 2022 Research Seminars Award from the British Psychological Society.

We will run a series of seminars bringing together; academics working on habit from different theoretical perspectives, applied psychologists, and practitioners.

We will discuss approaches to advance understanding how to make and undo habit in human behaviour and to develop new tools for practitioners working in behaviour change.

Related papers

  • Verplanken, B., Orbell, S. (2022). Attitudes, Habits and Behavior Change. Annual Review of Psychology, 73, 327-352.


Understanding human sexuality

This project benefits from a PhD Scholarship that is funded by the ESRC via SENSS 2021-2025 with support from EEPRU. 

Most women tend to show similar arousal to both men and women, regardless of their self-described sexual orientation. It is unclear why this is the case. We will look into the possibility of a biological explanation and whether it is a matter of character.

Firstly, the project will assess a prominent hypothesis that states that women respond to all sexual stimuli with arousal, and then lubrication, to protect women from genital injury. Since lubrication has rarely been investigated, however, we are one of the first to actually test this hypothesis. 

Secondly, we will investigate whether sex differences in arousal could be attributed to sex differences in empathy or sexual competition. As women have a greater empathy compared to men, they may be more likely to share the emotional state of females shown in sexual videos and experience the sexual arousal with them.

Moreover, women, more than men, depend on their physical appeal when competing for mates, and are therefore more distressed by physically attractive rivals. Thus, women may be aroused from stress by viewing attractive rivals in sexual videos, and this stress coincidentally triggers physiological sexual arousal.


Related papers

Recent publications




2018 - 2019

2016 - 2017

At the top the word "NHS" in white text in a blue box. Underneath "East Suffolk and North Essex" in black text, and underneath that "NHS Foundation Trust" in blue text.