School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Social Groups, Resilience, Health and Well-being

Supervisor: Dr Janelle Jones

Project description

Stress is a pervasive feature of modern life. Experiences ranging in intensity from major events, transitions and changes (e.g. illness, injury, marriage, divorce, war) to mundane occurrences (e.g. noise, interpersonal conflict, work demands, commuting) can all act as stressors, environmental elements that threaten a person’s psychological and physical well-being, and elicit strain, the psychological and physiological state of the individual in response to a stressor (e.g. anxiety, increased heart rate). This is particularly troubling given the negative implications of stress for mental and physical health and well-being (e.g. depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, illness, premature aging) and for decision making and behaviour (e.g. poor performance, smoking, excessive drinking).

The focus of the present research is on the social factors that contribute to stress management and reduction under different circumstances. Over 35 years of research suggests that social connections (i.e. the interpersonal and intragroup relationships that people have with others such as friends, partners, family, and social groups) are an important factor in shaping outcomes when contending with stressors. In particular, people who report having many (versus only a few) social connections exhibit lower levels of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress and make fewer negative self-evaluations. Impressively, having many and varied social connections has also been associated with less susceptibility to the common cold, slower disease progression, better cognitive functioning after stroke, and reduced mortality over time.

This PhD project will seek to identify and test the psychological and/or biological mechanism(s) through which social connections can promote resilience, health and well-being when facing stressors.

Eligibility and applying

  • For this position, a highly motivated, self-driven candidate is being sought.
  • Relevant background in social, health and/or biological psychology is required.
  • Interest and experience in psychophysics and/or psychoneuroendocrinology would be a definite asset.
  • Candidates should possess excellent knowledge of experimental research methods and data analysis.
  • An emerging track record of conference presentations and publications is a definite asset.

International students must provide evidence of proficient English language skills. See our entry requirements page for further information.

Applicants should consult the project supervisor Dr Jones ( before submitting an application in order to discuss their experience, background and proposed topic.


  • Jetten, J., Haslam, S. A., Haslam, C., Dingle, G., & Jones, J. M. (2014). How groups affect our health and well-being: The path from theory to policy. Social Issues and Policy Research, 8, 103-130
  • Jones, J. M. & Jetten, J. (2011). Recovering from strain and enduring pain: Multiple group memberships promote resilience in the face of novel physical challenges. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 239-243

See also