Harley McIntosh

Thesis title:

Do multiple meaningful groups promote resilience to stressors?


Stress is a fact of life. In the UK, 85% of adults regularly experience stress, with 74% of these adults reporting that at least once in the last year, they have felt so stressed they were unable to cope. High levels of stress are associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, illness, and premature aging, and stress can promote engagement in maladaptive behaviours (e.g., smoking, excessive drinking, over- or under-eating), which can further decrease well-being. Given its ubiquity, and potential consequences, identifying factors that can help people to respond in resilient ways to stress is a priority. Having many (versus a few) social connection(s) has been identified as one important factor in resilient responses to stress. However, what these connections give that influences resilience, and why this is tied to their number, is still not well understood. Drawing on the social identity approach to health and well-being, and the literature on meaning, I argue that social connections are an important source of psychological resources that can be accessed when facing stress. In particular, I contend that the meaning gained from social connections is what buffers people against the negative consequences of stress and imbues them with the strength to take on, and bounce back from, stressful challenges. This PhD will focus on one type of social connection, group memberships, to investigate whether and how the meaning derived from multiple group memberships helps to explain why social connections promote resilient responses to stressors in everyday life. I will test these relationships through the analysis of an existing longitudinal dataset, an experimental survey, and a lab-based experiment. Findings will provide new and novel insights into the psychological resources gained from social connections.

First supervisor:

Dr Janelle Jones


2 – Life Course, Psychology, & Health (from master spreadsheet)