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PhD studentship in Applied Health Research (ref: PhD2019YHARCMHARG)

The Department of Health Sciences, University of York, is inviting applications for a fully funded PhD studentship, available on a full-time basis to start in January 2020, on a collaborative research project between the Mental and Physical Multimorbidity and Older People with Frailty themes of the newly-awarded Yorkshire and Humber Applied Research Centre (YHARC), funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

The successful candidate will be part of the department’s Mental Health and Addiction Research Group, directed by Professor Simon Gilbody, and will be supervised by Dr Peter Coventry and Professor Gilbody in partnership with the Environment and Geography Department.

Project details

Using big data to accelerate design and delivery of nature-based interventions for older adults with multimorbidity.

  • Are you interested in mental health, physical health and the environment?
  • Do you want to work at the leading edge of environmental and population science?
  • Do you want to undertake a Doctoral training programme in a rich interdisciplinary environment at one the UK’s leading centres for applied mental health research?

There is now an emerging policy consensus that novel prevention strategies are critical to reengineering the way we improve mental health and tackle isolation and loneliness among older adults. This is likely to be achieved by developing population health strategies that blend intelligence about the wider determinants of ill-health with the development and implementation of placed-based and asset-based interventions, with a focus on improving mental and physical health together. The use of natural environment – green and blue space – to promote mental and physical health is a candidate solution to the challenges of population health in the 21st century. Critically, the creation of age friendly environments that afford opportunities for older adults to engage in purposeful outdoor activity has the potential to improve mental health and delay the onset of frailty in older adults.

This PhD project will investigate the link between the environment and mental health. You will build a data platform that will facilitate analysis of how environmental exposures (e.g. proximity to green and blue space; air quality) impact on the mental and physical health of older adults. You will use advanced data linkage to combine rich existing health data sets (curated older adult cohorts, with rich phenotypes) with high resolution open source environmental datasets. Additionally there may be scope to use evidence synthesis to generate research hypotheses about the relationship between environmental exposures and mental and physical health. The methods you will include spatial cohort analyses and quantitative and/or qualitative evidence synthesis.

This PhD studentship will be embedded within Yorkshire and Humberside Applied Research Collaboration (YH-ARC). You will be part of an exciting £18M programme of research based in the health-knowledge economy of Yorkshire and Humberside (population 6.2M) which runs between 2019-24,

This PhD studentship will be embedded within YHARC, and be cross-cutting across two themes:

  1. Mental and physical multimorbidity, led by Professor Simon Gilbody and Dr Peter Coventry (University of York). This theme aims to address complexities that arise from coexisting mental and physical health problems. Specifically it will link to projects with a focus on the evaluation of asset-based greenspace interventions for groups at heightened risk of mental and physical health problems, such as older adults.
  2. Older People with Frailty, led by Professor Andrew Clegg (University of Leeds). This theme aims to improve physical and mental health of older people living with frailty, including care home residents, and generate major health and care efficiency savings. A major focus of work will be the co-production and testing of prioritized interventions.

Interwoven with the first year of the Doctoral programme will be the opportunity to enhance your knowledge and skills by via the advanced postgraduate training programme of the University of York Department of Health Sciences (judged the joint-leading UK centre for training in the 2015 REF for Applied Health Research) Your training programme will be personalised to ensure the optimum mix of quantitative and qualitative skills, and will be formulated to match your needs at the commencement of the PhD.  

The award

This studentship is open to all applicants on a full time (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis and provides a tax-free stipend per annum in line with RCUK standard rates (currently £15,009 for 2019/20) and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

Essential and desirable requirements

This PhD blends applied health research with leading edge environmental mapping and spatial analyses in an area of high policy relevance. with the potential to develop advanced quantitative skills to support spatial cohort analyses. Applicants will need to hold at least an upper second class honours (2:1) degree or equivalent in a relevant subject (e.g. applied social/psychological sciences; environment and geography) with demonstrable quantitative training. It will be desirable that the candidate will also have a masters degree with a significant population health and/or epidemiological component.

Applicants are required to submit a short research proposal (max 500 words) outlining how they would approach developing a research proposal in the area outlined above. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Peter Coventry to discuss the project before applying (contact details under Informal Enquiries below).

For students whose first language is not English there is a minimum requirement of an IELTS score of at least 6.5 in each component of the test and an overall score of at least 7.

Process for application

Applications should be received no later than Friday 8th November 2019 before 16:00h UTC. Applications will not be considered for the studentships after this date. Applications should be made using the Department of Health Sciences on-line application process which can be accessed using the following link.

When completing the electronic form, applicants will need to state that they are applying for the advertised studentship and include ref: PhD2019CFCJanuary under the ‘How studies will be funded’ section, in order to be considered for the scholarship.

Shortlisting: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and shortlisted applicants will be notified promptly.
Start date: January 2020.


Individuals with the strongest academic record, experience, and research proposal ideas will be shortlisted and invited to interview in late November/Early December. Interviews will be conducted face-to-face or via Skype or similar communication tools, for non-UK based applicants.

Informal enquiries

For informal enquiries please contact Peter Coventry ( or telephone 01904 321528.

Department of Health Sciences

The Department of Health Sciences includes over 280 academics, teachers, researchers and support staff engaged in delivering research, professional development, education and training. Our core aim is excellence in research and teaching, while contributing to improving health and healthcare through the application of our research to policy and practice. We are a multidisciplinary department, involving clinicians from a range of health professions including medicine, nursing and midwifery alongside disciplines such as statistics, health economics, health services research, psychology, sociology and epidemiology. In the most recent assessment of research quality in the UK (the 2014 Research Excellence Framework), the Department was ranked equal first nationally for its research environment and all aspects of our research environment was judged to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of vitality and sustainability.
Our research activity is organised around six core themes: mental health and addiction; trials and statistics; public health and society; cancer epidemiology; cardiovascular health; and health services and policy

The successful candidate will join a vibrant community of over 200 postgraduate students in our Graduate School, including over 50 PhD students. Our PhD students are embedded in one of our research groups and have the flexibility to tailor their studies to pursue their own research interests, and a bespoke training programme is designed in conjunction with the supervisory team to support the development of essential subject-specific and transferable skills for their future careers. 

The University

The University of York is one of the foremost Universities in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of leading UK Universities. It has an outstanding record of research, teaching, and training across a full range of disciplines. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, The University ranked 10th on the impact of our research and 14th overall. The University has a particular strength in health-related research.

The main campus is a 200-acre landscaped park, with colleges and academic buildings within walking distance of each other. Proximity to the historic city of York makes the University a popular choice and provides a pleasant working environment. Transport connections to York are fast and effective.

University of York Graduate Research School