Principal Investigator: Miss Jessica Stepanous
Institution: University of ManchesterTags: 54646, mental health, neuroimaging, neuroticism, social support, socio-economic-status, Structural equation modelling
Social relationships give support and meaning in our lives, contributing to good mental health. However, the precise way in which social support leads to good mental health is unclear. There are several interacting factors to consider, such as the type of social support (Hakulinen et al., 2016), socioeconomic conditions (Berkman & Krishna, 2014), and an individual’s personality (Kendler et al., 2002). There is also a dynamic interplay between biological and social factors, as the structure and function of the brain affects receptivity to social support, and social support shapes neural structure and function (Lamblin et al., 2017). Previous research has looked at these different factors individually, however this project aims to build on this to combine biological, psychological and social factors into a model of the mental health benefits of social support.
A statistical method called structural equation modelling will be used to test different relationships between different types of social support on mental health outcomes, the impact of social and personality factors, and how it is related to the structure and function of the brain. The project will use data from the UK Biobank which includes extensive questionnaire data as well as brain imaging data in a very large sample of middle- to older-aged adults. It will form the first study of a PhD and last around 18 months.
The findings of the project could help to create new approaches to improving mental health. By understanding how the brain is affected by social factors and how this relates to anxiety and depression, we can develop new evidence-based approaches to treating and preventing mental health problems that focus on enhanced social support. Loneliness and social isolation is a rising concern, especially in older people, and it is essential to understand this at a biological as well as a social level.