Skip to main content

Healthy mind, healthy body: Biopsychosocial interactions between psychological wellbeing, eating behaviour and weight during the developmental years


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 30 June 2023
Project start date
Sunday 1 October 2023
Country eligibility
UK only
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Dr Alison Fildes and Professor Jason Halford
Additional supervisors
Dr Clare Llewellyn, Dr Alice Kininmonth
School of Psychology
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This fully funded PhD scholarship provides an exciting opportunity to pursue postgraduate research in the field of child and adolescent obesity and mental health. Obesity and common mental health disorders are major contributors to the global burden of disease. There have been substantial increases in the prevalence of both obesity and mental health problems among children and adolescents in recent years, with these issues further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This PhD will utilise longitudinal data from the Gemini twin cohort to explore the development of both overweight and mental health problems from toddlerhood to adolescence, and identify early risk factors.<br /> <br /> The School of Psychology invites applications from prospective postgraduate researchers who wish to commence study for a PhD in the academic year 2023/24 for this Thomas Ward Scholarship in psychological wellbeing, eating behaviour and weight.<br /> <br /> The award is open to full-time or part-time candidates (UK only) who meet the eligibility for a place on a PhD degree at the School of Psychology.<br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Obesity and mental health are inextricably linked, and the relationship between them is likely complex and bidirectional. While excess weight can affect an individual&rsquo;s emotional wellbeing, it is also true that mental health conditions may influence a person&rsquo;s weight; at the same time, there are common risk factors for both such as experiencing economic hardship and early life trauma. Varied explanations for the mechanisms explaining associations between development of overweight and mental health issues have been hypothesized but studies in longitudinal pediatric populations are urgently needed to further explore these potential mechanisms.</p> <p>The proposed PhD student will be based at the University of Leeds, but jointly supervised by experts in the psychology of obesity from the Appetite and Obesity Research Group in the <a href="">School of Psychology</a> at the University of Leeds and the Obesity research group in the <a href="">Department of Behavioural Science and Health</a> at University College London. They will have the opportunity to draw on a large existing data set from the Gemini twin birth <a href="">cohort</a> (<a href=""></a>), while also collecting novel data. Gemini is the largest twin cohort with detailed repeated measures of eating behaviour and growth from birth and represents one of the richest early growth datasets in the world. The Gemini twins turn 16 this year and there have been 11 rounds of data collection to date. &nbsp;As a longitudinal birth cohort, Gemini will enable exploration of the directionality of associations between mental health problems and excess weight as they unfold over development. Additionally, Gemini is a genetically sensitive design, which will allow investigation of common genetic architecture underlying mental health and body weight.</p> <h4>Information about the Award</h4> <ul> <li>We are offering a full-time or part-time PhD scholarship in the School of Psychology for one UK candidate, covering a maintenance grant matching UKRI maintenance stipend of &pound;18,622 for the 2023/24 academic year (pro-rata for part time study) and UK tuition fees for three years (full-time) or five years (part-time), subject to satisfactory progress.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <h4>Duration of the Award</h4> <ul> <li>Full-time (3 years) or Part-time (5 years). The award will be made for one year (full-time) or two years (part-time) in the first instance and renewable for a further period of up to two years (full-time) or three years (part-time), subject to satisfactory academic progress.</li> </ul> <h4>Other Conditions</h4> <ul> <li>Applicants must not have already been awarded or be currently studying for a doctoral degree.</li> <li>Awards must be taken up by 1st January 2024.</li> <li>Applicants must live within a reasonable distance of the University of Leeds whilst in receipt of this scholarship.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>We would recommend you contacting the supervision team for this project prior to submitting a formal application. To apply for this scholarship opportunity applicants should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and attach the following documentation to support their application.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>a full academic CV</li> <li>degree certificate and transcripts of marks</li> <li>Evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (if applicable)</li> </ul> <p>To help us identify that you are applying for this scholarship project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;</p> <ul> <li>Select PhD in Psychological Sciences as your programme of study</li> <li>Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert</li> <li>For source of funding please state you are applying for a Thomas Ward Scholarship</li> </ul> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to this scholarship in the School of Psychology should normally have an Undergraduate degree of 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject area. A Master&rsquo;s degree is desirable, but not essential. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Admissions Team prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests for PhD, MSc, MPhil, MD are: &bull; British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0 &bull; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p>The Thomas Ward Scholarship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of &pound;18,622 each year for up to 3 years subject to satisfactory progress. Academic fees will also be paid at the UK fee rate. Due to limited funding we can only consider applicants for this position who are eligible for UK fee status. The start date for this award is 1 October 2023, although there will be flexibility for the right candidate.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>We encourage applicant to contact the supervisor(s) for informal discussion about the suitability of the project before applying to the University</p> <p>Dr Alison Fildes:&nbsp; &nbsp;e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about the application process please contact the Admissions team<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>