Professor Alex Wood: Mental Health and Happiness across Psychology, Economics, and Psychiatry/Medicine

Alex Wood, PhD, Professor and Director of the Behavioral Science Centre, and Director of the Centre for Graduate Research in Management, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling.

Honorary Professor, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester.

Accurate psychological assessment of individuals, by self-report or interview, is essential to conducting valid research and making accurate diagnoses in practice. I have published on the optimum ways to design assessments and have validated scales ranging from authenticity to patient satisfaction with genetic counselling. These are used in hospital, business, educational, and research settings.

I ask when, why, and for whom do socio-economic events lead to mental health and happiness? We find, for example, that income (a) only relates to happiness when it is falling rather than rising, because of (b) concerns for social status, and (c) that this only occurs for conscientious people.

research with impact

Life long well-being and personality partially develops in childhood, so I ask what childhood factors lead to later distress and happiness, and I test how school and parenting provision can be changed to set children up for a better life.

Primary Research and consultancy Areas

I find that when people make judgements (e.g,. whether they are drinking too much alcohol) they are not based on the actual behavior (how much is drank) but rather how people incorrectly think their behavior (drinking) ranks amongst other people's. As people commonly over-estimate the bad behaviors of others, they have an false sense of security that can be corrected through intervention.

Why do some people have better mental health and more happiness than others, and how can we best help people? I ask (a) what psychological processes lead to mental health; (b) what psychological and pharmaceutical interventions are most effective.

Positive Psychology developed 15 years ago in response to criticisms that psychology over focused on distress rather than good living. My contribution to is to ensure that there is not a separalist field of positive psychology, but rather a more integrated, holistic discipline of psychology as a whole. I founded Positive Clinical Psychology, a new approach that aims to put equal weighting on the positive and the negative in understanding disorder and improving well-being.

I conducted some of the first research into the consequences of being a more or less grateful person, and I found that trait gratitude is strongly, uniquely, and causally related to well-being and physical health. I have validated interventions to improve well-being through increasing gratitude.