Department for Health

Lifelong health and wellbeing

Understanding the various factors that culminate in overall health and wellbeing can provide important benefits to individuals, the economy and society. A key aim of our research is to develop person-centred, socially-just and cost-effective interventions, policies and programmes which target both primary prevention and therapeutic treatments.

What we do and how we do it

Many diseases such as cancer, obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease are linked to lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity. Research is conducted into these health and disease risk factors in order to inform policy decision making and/or individual lifestyle choices. Other long-term health conditions such as permanent disability or aging-related illness require alternative approaches involving evidence-based support to manage ongoing physical challenges. In addition, poor mental health is closely connected to physical health and our research informs both the treatment and management of issues concerning mental health and wellbeing. Further research in all these areas promises to improve overall health and wellbeing across the lifespan and we are developing cutting edge research around emerging health technologies to solve unmet health problems and improve quality of life.

Out of necessity our research methodologies are innovative and diverse as we seek to develop responses to identified major problems of significance in our field: epidemiology, systematic reviews, clinical trials, qualitative studies, policy and media analysis, participatory action research, digital interventions, laboratory mechanistic investigations, mathematical modelling and evaluation studies. We pursue this research agenda through the following research clusters:

Health and disease risk factors

According to the World Health Organisation (2015) Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes kill 38 million people each year. Tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and inactivity all increase the risk of developing NCDs. Research within the Lifelong Health & Wellbeing group is focused on intervening, managing and modifying these risk factors as well as tackling health inequalities that are estimated to cost up to £33 billion in productivity losses per year (The Marmot Review 2010).

Examples of our research

Long-term health conditions

It is estimated that, in the UK alone, more than 15 million people are already living with some form of long-term condition—a health problem that can’t be cured but can be controlled by medication and/or therapeutic treatment. The government (2015) has identified long-term health conditions as key health priorities because care costs account for 70% of the money spent on health and social care in England. Research within the Lifelong Health & Wellbeing group is focused on understanding the impact long-term conditions related to ageing and disability can have on people’s lives as well as developing support for those who are affected.

Examples of our research

Mental health and wellbeing

Poor mental health prevents people from participating fully in society. Improving mental health is a priority area for the Department for Health and Public Health England. Research within the Lifelong Health & Wellbeing group includes a focus on the support and care for people with mental health conditions within community and health-care contexts to enhance participation in community life. Our research also takes a preventative focus by designing, developing and evaluating interventions that are targeted at improving health behaviours with the aim of preventing poor mental health and enhancing wellbeing.

Examples of our research

Emerging health technologies

Healthcare services are currently being transformed by emerging health technologies and digital health solutions. According to the Department for Health (2015), 75% of the UK population go online for health information and more than 50% of the UK population use the internet to self-diagnose. Health technologies can enhance the efficiency of healthcare services and technological innovations can help people make positive changes to their behaviour and thus reduce the risk of chronic disease. Research within the Lifelong Health & Wellbeing group is focused on the psychological, physiological, social, economic and ethical issues associated with emergent health technologies in order to inform interventions and policy decision making, improve access and quality and reduce healthcare costs.