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Funded PhD Opportunity

Family Caregivers and Mental Ill Health in Northern Ireland: an investigation of employment transitions and economic costs.

Subject: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience


Summary

Background:

Given an ageing population in Northern Ireland (NI), with implications for the prevalence of multimorbidities, chronic conditions and associated care needs, there is an increasing reliance on family caregivers to supplement and compliment the work of healthcare professionals (Bauer & Sousa-Poza, 2015). The census estimates that there are around 213,000 informal caregivers in NI, saving the economy £4.4 billion per year (Carers Trust NI). While many people gain positive satisfaction from their caregiving role (Brown & Brown, 2014), a body of evidence shows potential adverse effects of intense caregiving on physical health and mental health (ONS, 2013; Bauer & Sousa-Poza, 2015; Doebler, 2015) Furthermore, mental ill health has been shown to have an adverse impact on participation, sickness absence and productivity at work (Alonso et al. 2011; Ferry, 2012). A 'healthy caring population' is essential to a thriving society (Gilick 2013). There is a need to establish an evidence base that will inform the development of specific practice and policies, which promote the health and wellbeing of informal caregivers, to enable them to fulfil their potential in paid employment and their caregiving duties (DHSSPSNI, 2011; Feinberg, 2014).

Objectives of the research:

The study aims to address two key research questions:

1) How does intensity of family caregiving and mental ill health impact upon the following outcomes:

a) transitions in economic activity;

b) transitions in occupation type;

c) transitions in hours of work; and

d)early retirement.

2) What are the economic costs associated with mental ill health among caregivers (stratified by caregiving intensity) compared to a matched sample of non-caregivers over a one-year period in terms of:

a) mental health prescriptions; and

b) reduced working hours?

Methods that will be used:

Data:

The study will use linked NI administrative data, facilitated within the Administrative Data Research Centre NI (ADRC-NI), including:

* 2001 and 2011 individual and household level Census data;

* NI Multiple Deprivation Measures 2010;

* Enhanced Prescribing Database 2010/11;

* Prescription Cost Analysis Data 2011.

Analysis:

The available data is at two points in time; hence facilitating an essential aspect of the study, i.e., change.

The analysis will therefore be done within the context of longitudinal/panel data.  The statistical method to be used will include latent transition analysis to examine change in the context of mental health, caregiving intensity, and employment outcomes.  In addition, this analysis will be conducted within the context of the economic costs relating to mental ill-health in the context of caregiving.

Skills required of the applicant:

Candidates will be provided with the opportunity to receive high level training in the skills required to complete this research.  It will be a requirement that this is completed successfully.

Applicants should have a degree in a related discipline and it is expected that candidates have experience and knowledge of data analysis, statistical research and mental health epidemiology.

Policy:

The project directly addresses a number of outcomes/priorities outlined in the 2016-21 Programme for government, namely: ‘More People Working in Better Jobs’ and ‘Caring for People in Need.

Critically, the proposed work has potential to set the agenda and provide an evidence base to inform the development of policy and strategy in relation to carers in Northern Ireland, which is very much lagging behind other UK jurisdictions. The most recent NI strategy ‘Caring for Carers’ dates back to 2006, while the most recent legislation (Carers and Direct Payments Act) came earlier in 2002.  This is in contrast to all other three UK jurisdictions, which have published strategies, updated legislation and passed new laws to support and protect carers in more recent years.

Data:

The proposed PhD is based on an administrative data research study that has already gone through a rigorous approvals process with Administrative Data Research UK. UU and IRAS ethical approval has also been granted for the study. The data for this study has been prepared, anonymised and linked and is ready for analyses. All statistical analyses relating to this project will be carried out in NISRA’s ‘secure setting’.

Supervisors/Advisors:

The proposed supervisory team represent the wider team involved in the ADRC project:

Dr Ferry is a Research Fellow working within the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Ulster. She is the dedicated Statistical and Methodological Officer with the Administrative Data Research Centre NI (ADRC NI) and is an experienced researcher and analyst in the areas of mental health epidemiology and health economics.

Professor Bunting is a Professor of Psychology at Ulster University, with expertise in quantitative psychology. His particular specialism is in latent variable modelling (which will be applied in this study), having delivered numerous training courses in universities across the UK and Ireland. Professor Bunting also co-ordinated the largest epidemiological study of mental health in NI and has supervised numerous PhD students to completion.

Professor Ryan is a Professor of Ageing and Health at Ulster University. She has experience of supervising to completion and examining PhD researchers both at Ulster and at other institutions across the UK and Ireland. Dr Ryan’s research interest is in family caregiving, dementia and improving quality of life in long-term care settings.

Dr Ennis is a Lecturer in Psychology at Ulster University. She is an experienced researcher, whose interests are in the fields of caregiving, mental health epidemiology, suicidal thoughts and behaviours and the applications of digital technologies to these fields.

Professor McKenna have supervised 19 PhD students to successful completion, including a PhD on the experience of informal caregivers. He is Chairperson of the largest Mental Health charity on the island of Ireland and is non-executive director on Alzheimers Society UK.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Hold a Masters degree in Psychology or related area
  • Recognition of the importance of research integrity and Open Science practices

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
18 + 19 + 20 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Miss Finola Ferry


Other supervisors

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