PhD Studentship: Psycho-social interventions for adults with intellectual disability and associated mental health conditions

Coventry University

Psycho-social interventions and mental health conditions: Developing and testing laughter yoga as an adjunct therapy for adults with Intellectual Disability and associated depression and Anxiety Related Disorders.

Details of the PhD project

This project aims to further the scientific benefit of adopting psycho-social interventions with adults with major depression. It intends to focus on developing and testing laughter yoga (LY) as a specific group based 6 week intervention.

Depression is a common mental health problem, it can be associated with impaired functioning, high socioeconomic costs, and in some cases, suicide. Treatments for major depression vary in accordance with the severity of symptoms, but can include psychological, pharmacological and psychosocial approaches. People who have been treated for major depression commonly still experience some symptoms of depression and anxiety, these symptoms may improve further with a number of complementary/alternative treatments. One potential candidate complementary treatment is Laughter Yoga, which is increasing in popularity amongst the general public. Some preliminary evidence suggests that LY may be helpful to improve the mood of people with a range of specific physical health problems, and one promising study has shown positive effects of LY on the mood of older women with depression in the short term.

Adults with Intellectual disability (ID) experience the same mental health conditions as the non-disabled population but at a higher rate. Significant life events, loss and inherent low self-esteem make this population group more susceptible to mental health conditions and distress. Studies show adults with ID can respond well to psychological interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. More evidence is required to test the acceptability of different psycho-social interventions with adults with ID living in community settings.

The success of the intervention will be assessed using a mixed methods approach of qualitative measures i.e. cross cultural quality of life questionnaires and quantitative measures of stress i.e. salivary cortisol measures, measured both before, during and following the intervention.

This PhD complements a feasibility study on this topic under way with fellow academics at HKPU and the PhD project HKPU academics are recruiting to at the same time as this project.

About the host Centre/Department

The Faculty Research Centre Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences furthers the understanding of fundamental biological pathways and processes; applying biological sciences to advance diagnosis and prevention of disease.  Utilising inter-disciplinary research approaches, Centre for Life & Sports Science intends to promote a range of bio/psychosocial interventions across the lifespan and with different population groups

Our aim is to enhance Coventry University’s reputation for evidence-based scientific research of excellent quality, across a range of areas and discipline boundaries, to create an inter-disciplinary continuum of expertise that extends and develops our understanding across Applied Biological and Social Sciences.

The University has considerable strengths in high quality publications in Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences, ranging from expertise in cell biology, genomic and molecular biology, biochemistry, safety pharmacology, physiology, physical activity and exercise and positive psychological interventions. We currently have particular strengths in scientific research that investigates life processes to lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis and prevention.

This is a matched funded PhD project between the Centre for Life & Sports Science at Coventry University and the School of Nursing at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The aim of this work is to apply research findings related to psychosocial interventions and mental health conditions, with a particular focus on the benefits of Laughter/Yoga as an adjunct therapeutic approach.  


Candidate specification

  • a taught Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, involving a dissertation of standard length written in English in the relevant subject area with a minimum of a merit profile: 60% overall module average and a minimum of a 60% dissertation mark
  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a three-year period of study
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Additional items for candidate specification

  • High-calibre student, BSc/MSc 1st or 2:1 in Psychology, Mental Health /Learning Disability Nursing, or relevant bioscience degree.
  • Capable of conducting psycho-social and therapeutic intervention research with vulnerable populations.
  • A good knowledge of mixed methods techniques to analyse relevant data sets.

How to apply

Application form, full supporting documentation and covering letter, stating why the applicant would be suited to this specific project.



UK/EU students with the required entry requirements

PhD funding award

£16,000 stipend in year 1plus 2%, year 2, plus 2 year 3 thereafter UK/EU fees waiver and costs of consumables.

Start date

September/January 2017/2018

Duration of study

Full-Time – up to a maximum of  three years six months


Application deadline date

August 23rd 2017 4pm GMT

Interview dates

Sept 6th 2017

Enquiries may be addressed to

Dr Martin Bollard