The new psychology of health: Unlocking the social cure

Date & time

4–5pm 20 September 2016


PSYC G8, Psychology Building 39


Alex Haslam, Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology and Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland

If you are over 50 and you join one social group today you will cut your risk of being diagnosed with depression in the next two years by 24%. 

With every group membership that that you lose after retirement, your quality of life declines by 10%, and your life expectancy reduces by about 3%. Such statistics point to the fact that  group life is an important determinant of well-being and health. Yet their importance is rarely discussed, and far less explained.  

This talk will attempt to address this gap in understanding by showing that groups exert a profound impact on our psychology through their capacity to be internalized within the self, as part of our social identity (a sense of the self as ‘we’ and ‘us’, not just ‘me’ and ‘I’). It will show that when, and to the extent that, this occurs, groups provide us not only with social support but also with a sense of meaning, belonging, purpose, and agency — factors that in turn have powerful consequences for the quality of our lives.

The talk makes the case for this analysis by drawing on a range of recent epidemiological, experimental, and intervention studies. It also presents details of clinical tools that can be used for both diagnostic and intervention purposes.   In particular, it talks about social identity mapping as an effective way of mapping social identities and Groups 4 Health as an evidence-based intervention to tackle the devastating effects of social isolation.

More generally, the talk argues that there is a strong case for advancing theory and practice by attending to lessons that derive from social identity theorizing. In particular, this is because the approach provides an important alternative to prevailing psychological models that define the self (and the psychology of mental and physical health) in individualistic terms.

Presenter: Professor Alex Haslam

Alex Haslam is Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology and Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and co-Director of the Social Interactions, Identity and Well-being Program in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. His research focuses on the study of group and identity processes in organizational, social, and clinical contexts.

Together with colleagues, Alex has written and edited 12 books and over 200 peer-reviewed articles and this work has been cited over 23,000 times (h=75). His most recent books are The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power (with Steve Reicher & Michael Platow, Psychology Press, 2011), The Social Cure: Identity, Health and Well-being (with Jolanda Jetten and Catherine Haslam, Psychology Press, 2012), and Social Psychology: Revisiting the Classic Studies (with Joanne Smith, Sage, 2012).

Alex is a former Chief Editor of the European Journal of Social Psychology (2002-2005) and a former President of the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (2008-2009). In 2005 he was awarded the European Association of Social Psychology's Kurt Lewin Medal for outstanding contribution to research in social psychology, and in 2016 he was awarded the British Psychology Society’s Presidents’ Medal for distinguished contributions to psychological science.  His work with Michelle Ryan on the Glass Cliff was identified by the New York Times as one of the ‘Best 100 Ideas’ of 2008 and he is on the editorial board of 10 international journals including Scientific American Mind for which he writes regularly.

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