Coronavirus information for applicants and offer-holders

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Read our latest coronavirus information

MSc Health Psychology

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Mind and Body

Unit code PSYC69822
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit introduces the concept of medically unexplained illness and the contributions of different approaches (biological, cognitive, emotion-regulation, interpersonal, socio-cultural) to our understanding of medically explained and unexplained conditions will be considered.

The topics of stress and psychoneuroimmunology will be addressed in depth, examining how psychological processes may influence our health. Throughout, there will be a focus on methodological and measurement issues, and students will be encouraged to develop skills of critical evaluation.



The unit aims to:

  • Provide an understanding of the role of psychological factors in disease and illness, for example, the roles of stress and psychoneuroimmunology, and a focus on medically unexplained illness.
  • Draw on recent research to critically discuss methodological issues which are important when we are trying to understand the relationship between mind and body.
  • Develop skills of critical reading of original research papers within the field.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this unit students will be able to:

  • Understand how psychological factors interact with and impact on physiological processes, including in the context of medically unexplained symptoms.
  • Describe current research on the role of psychological factors in the functioning of the immune system
  • Critically evaluate research related to the relationship between psychological and physiological processes. Integrate ideas and concepts from several literatures (including cognitive psychology, biological psychology and medicine)
  • Practice communication and interaction in small groups and class discussions.
  • Show a sophisticated and sympathetic understanding of illness without disease.
  • Be able to critically evaluate evidence, noting both positive and negative qualities.


Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be delivered in 10 x 2 hour weekly sessions which will usually involve lecture and interactive seminar components - for example working with set reading to gain a deeper understanding of the area and to build critical evaluation skills; experiencing relaxation exercises. Students will be provided with electronic resources on Blackboard including PowerPoint slides, reading lists and web links. A discussion board on Blackboard will also be available for discussing issues and questions with staff and peers.

Assessment methods

1. Critical review and synthesis of two papers from key journals. 1000 words, 30% of mark.

2. 2 hour exam. Part A Answer 1 of 4 questions from first part of course. Part B Answer 1 of 4 questions from second part of course. 70% of mark.

Recommended reading

Key readings are listed below.  Additional references will be provided with individual sessions.

  • Brown, R. J. (2004). Psychological mechanisms of medically unexplained symptoms: An integrative conceptual model. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 793-812. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.5.79
  • Brown, R. J. (2013). Explaining the unexplained. The Psychologist, 26(12), 868-872.
  • Cohen S, Tyrrell DAJ, Smith AP (1991). Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. New England Journal of Medicine, 325, 606-612.
  • Deary V., Chalder, T., & Sharpe, M. (2007). The cognitive behavioural model of medically unexplained symptoms: a theoretical and empirical review. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 781-797
  • Rief, W., & Broadbent E. (2007). Explaining medically unexplained symptoms - models and mechanisms. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 821-841.
  • Sapolsky RM (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. 3rd Ed. New York: Holt Paperbacks.
  • Walburn, J., Vedhara, K., Hankins, M., Rixon, L., & Weinman, J. (2009). Psychological stress and wound healing in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 67, 253-271.
  • Wills TA, Ainette, MG (2012). Social networks and social support. In: Baum A, Revenson TA,Singer J (eds). Handbook of Health Psychology (2nd Ed). New York & Hove: Psychology Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kimberly Dienes Unit coordinator

Return to course details