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Supervisors: Professor Paul Aveyard; Professor Kam Bhui

The project

Serious mental illness (SMI) shortens lives by 15-20 years, mainly due to preventable NCDs. Smoking prevalence is not falling commensurately with the general population and obesity, problem alcohol consumption, and poor diet remain prevalent. Mental illness and adverse health behaviours share common neuropsychological underpinnings and social causes, including systemic disadvantage. Cognitive, perceptual and affective symptoms of mental illness make behaviour change challenging. Antipsychotic medication does not reduce volitional and functional impairments in schizophrenia, which are associated with poor diet, smoking, and obesity. Depression and anxiety undermine motivation to change behaviour. Nihilistic thinking by professionals has compounded these disadvantages, viewing adverse health behaviours as intractable among individuals with mental illness.

Our Mendelian randomisation studies suggest that supporting people to change behaviour prevents NCDs and reduces the incidence of severe and common mental illness. We have co-designed interventions with commissioners, clinicians, managers, and patients, delivered in routine care, that benefit patients and reduce NHS costs. The aim of this studentship is to develop and test stratified innovative preventative interventions to address behavioural risk factors tailored to neuropsychological and sociocultural challenges of people with SMI to deliver practical interventions suitable for use in routine mental healthcare. We hypothesise that co-designed interventions addressing the neuropsychological deficits and social underpinnings will prove more effective than current behavioural interventions for people with mental illness. In this programme, you will assess which neuropsychological vulnerabilities and social risk factors are tractable to intervention, a programme to treat these issues to support behaviour change, and conduct early staget testing.


This project is funded by Oxford Health NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). Funding will cover Home level university fees, a stipend of at least £19,668 and some research expenses.

Who should apply?

This studentship is only available to Home fee status students and can only be taken on a full time basis.

You will have a solid training in neuroscience, psychology, or behavioural interventions, including having completed a masters degree by the time of taking up the studentship.

The studentship is available for a starting between April 2023 and October 2023.