Psychology, Health and Behaviour MSc

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Special Features
  • Teaching & Assessment
  • Employability
  • Fees
  • Entry Criteria

About the Course

This MSc programme teaches an understanding of the psychological aspects of health, illness beliefs, and behaviours, and provides knowledge and research skills to undertake health research. 

The topics covered aim to give an understanding of what influences living with and adjusting to a chronic illness, why some people engage in risky behaviours, such as smoking and risky sexual behaviour, and what factors encourage adherence at, for example, screening programmes. Those who work with people with chronic illness and/or wish to research behaviour change will benefit from this MSc.

This course is aimed at a variety of graduates:

  • those working in the health sector who wish to further their understanding of the psychological aspects of health and illness
  • health professionals (e.g. medical doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses)
  • international students
  • psychology graduates who wish to gain skills to help them obtain a place on a Clinical Psychology Doctorate or study further at PhD level
  • graduates in related disciplines such as sociology and anthropology.


Understanding how beliefs and attitudes influence behaviour is essential to understanding and predicting behaviour, and designing interventions for behaviour change. There is a dramatic increase in people diagnosed with chronic illnesses and those experiencing health problems, and the causes usually include behavioural factors. 

This means that if we change the behaviour we are in a position of being able to reduce the chances of illness, improve health and quality of life, and reduce the burden on the NHS.

Issues that are analysed through the programme include:

  • How can we change risky health behaviours, such as smoking and alcoholism?
  • Why don’t people take medicines as directed, even when the medicines are prescribed for serious illnesses?
  • What psychological and social factors influence physical health?

The MSc teaches an understanding the psychological aspects of health, illness beliefs, and behaviours, and provides knowledge and research skills to undertake health research.


Admissions and Course Enquiries
Web: Admissions Enquiries Information
Tel (before application): +44 (0)1895 265599 (Course Enquiries)
Tel (after application): +44 (0)1895 265265 (Admissions Office)
Contact Admissions or Course Enquiries Online

Course Director: Dr Bridget Dibb

Related Courses

Course Content

The course consists of four taught modules (30 credits each) and a final dissertation (60 credits) totalling 180 credits. Modules are subject to variation but at the time of publication, planned modules are as follows:

The Psychology of Managing Illness
This module introduces various factors associated with chronic illness. For example, the impact of illness on quality of life, adjustment to chronic illness, adherence to treatment/rehabilitation, factors important in predicting change in various illnesses.

Understanding Health
This module introduces many theoretical health models and their relationship to health and risk behaviours. These include smoking, eating; sexual behaviour; alcohol consumption; exercise; and screening.

Multidisciplinary Approaches to Health
This module examines the multidisciplinary nature of health research and healthcare. Students will be taught approaches that researchers use in health research such as epidemiological, social, ethical and cultural. They will also learn about the different healthcare professionals working in the NHS and current policies governing healthcare.

Health Research Methods
This module trains students to analyse research, write literature reviews and discusses the practicalities of research. Students will be trained in qualitative and quantitative research methods and equips the student with the skills to undertake health research. This module is co-taught with students undertaking other masters in the Division.

Students will undertake a research project in a topic of their interest, chosen after discussion with their supervisor.

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

Special Features

Unique modules: Our MSc offers some unique modules and allows a broad understanding of health and how to undertake health research. There is also usually the opportunity to shadow a therapist at work and participate in courses run at a local smoking cessation centre.

Academic credibility: Teaching staff at Brunel have published high-impact journal articles and books on a broad range of subjects and have received research funding from a variety of bodies, including the EU, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Home Office, the Department of Health, The Wellcome Trust, The Leverhulme Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


Dr Bridget Dibb, a Chartered Psychologist and a registered Health Psychologist who has previously taught and supervised health psychology at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her research interests include: factors important for quality of life and adjustment to chronic illness, with a focus on posttraumatic growth, social comparison, and the perception of stigma. She has also carried out research into weight loss issues in obese adults. Other areas of interest include sexual health, illness cognitions, and illness behaviours.

Dr Kimberley Smith, is a health researcher who completed her PhD at Trinity College Dublin and a postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University. Her research interests include: the co-morbidity of mental and physical illness (specifically depression and diabetes), the impact of sleep on cardiometabolic risk and attitudes and understanding of risk towards noncommunicable disease.


Assessment is by exam, coursework (including term papers and oral presentations), and a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.


Our graduates go on to further study at PhD level: this MSc is a valuable precursor to any future research degree or clinical doctorate.

Graduates working within the NHS find this MSc useful for their career progression.Skills learnt on this course will also benefit those working within health and illness or health promotion who wish to further their careers.

Please note our MSc Psychology, Health & Behaviour course is not a pathway to becoming a Health Psychologist in the UK.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2015/6 entry

UK/EU students: £7,000 full-time; £3,500 part-time

International students: £14,750 full-time; £7,375 part-time

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Requirements

  • A UK first or 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in a social sciences or medical related subject, the health professions or applicants who hold a medical degree. Applicants with a 2.1 or above degrees not in these areas but with relevant experience will be considered on an individual basis.
  • Applicants with a 2:2 Psychology degree and with relevant experience will be considered on an individual basis – as will applicants with other 2.2 degrees that have a maths background, and substantial relevant work experience.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.

Page last updated: Thursday 12 November 2015