Lesley Henderson


Lesley Henderson_opt.jpg

Lesley Henderson is a media Sociologist with a strong track record of externally funded research concerning health and science communication (e.g. ESRC, AHRC, Health Development Agency). She completed her PhD in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Glasgow where she was also a researcher with the Glasgow Media Group. Previous posts include Visiting Lecturer and Senior Researcher/ Grant Holder in Public Health & Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Lesley joined Brunel as Senior Research Fellow and Grant Holder of a study exploring media advocacy and health inequalities (HDA). She then examined the role of science correspondents and their sources in a large scale project concerning new human genetics (Wellcome Trust).

Lesley was appointed Lecturer in Sociology & Communications (2003) and promoted to Senior Lecturer (Research Excellence, 2008). She became a member of the All Parliamentary Media Literacy Group (2009), Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2007), Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (2008) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2014). She was selected as one of the first participants in the Aurora Women Leaders in Higher Education Training Programme (2013-14). Lesley develops public engagement activities as Director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Culture, Media & Regulation and Contributing Editor of academic blog Cost of Living (funded by the British Sociological Association) where she writes regularly about health and the media.

Lesley Henderson is the Public Engagement Champion and also runs the department twitter feed https://twitter.com/SocCommsBrunel.


  • PG Cert. In Learning & Teaching in Higher Education (Brunel)
  • PhD Sociology (Glasgow)

Membership and affiliation

  • Fellow Royal Society of Medicine
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
  • Member Parliamentary Media Literacy Group
  • Panel Member, Society Research Awards, Wellcome Trust
  • International Communication Association
  • European Sociological Association
  • International Association of Media and Communications Research
  • BSA
  • BSA Media and Politics Study Group
  • MeCCSA
  • External Examiner, Goldsmiths College, University of London
  • External Examiner, Cardiff University
  • External Examiner, Dublin City University
  • Expert Reviewer, European Research Council, Brussels
  • Contributing editor, Cost of Living Blog
  • Visiting Lecturer, Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Visiting Lecturer, St Georges Hospital, London


Research interests

Lesley is a full member of the Welfare, Health and Wellbeing theme in the Institute for the Environment, Health & Societies. Her research and publications explore issues of communication and social change. Specifically her work traces the production, transmission and audience reception of media messages concerning health, science; social problems and political disconnection. Substantive areas include mental distress, breast cancer, human genetics, childhood immunisation, infant feeding, social care. Her key interest is in public engagement and how health issues are packaged and transmitted in popular media.

Lesley’s research is problem orientated and policy relevant. It has attracted funding from various sources (e.g. AHRC, ESRC, Nuffield, Dept of Health, Primary Care Trusts). She regularly works with policy makers, journalists and programme-makers as well as different charities and organisations for which she occasionally conducts short consultancies. Current research explores cross cultural health communication and uses of social media with younger audiences.

Director Centre for Culture, Media and Regulation

Member: Institute of Environment, Health and Societies

Research project(s) and grant(s)

Current Projects

Storytelling & Public Health: Digital Methods, Media Advocacy & Social Change

2015- 16

Lesley Henderson (PI)

(£6,906, Research Catalyst IDEA award).

'From Plastic Pollution to Solutions: Public Communication of Environmental and Health Risks'


Lesley Henderson (PI)

'Culture Clashes: Communication Challenges in a Changing World'


Lesley Henderson (PI)

(£3,000, Brunel Research Seminar Series Awards)

Health Communication in Cross Cultural Settings
2012 -
Lesley Henderson (PI)

Young People, Media and Health
2012 -
Lesley Henderson (PI)

Recently Completed Projects

SHIFT, Mental Health Attitudes
Mental Distress in Popular Television Drama
Lesley Henderson (CI)

Arts and Humanities Research Council
Television News, Current Affairs and Young People: The problem of disconnection’
2006 - 2008
Lesley Henderson (CI)

Special Research Institute(s)



Undergraduate Programmes

Module convenor

  • Understanding Audiences (Level 3)

Module contributor

  • Introduction to Media and Communications (Level 1)
  • Introduction to Social Inquiry (Level 1)
  • Media Genres and Society (Level 2)
  • Qualitative Methods in Dissertation (Level 3)

Postgraduate Programmes

Programme convenor

  • MSc Media and Communications

Module convenor

  • Media Audiences
  • Principles of Media Research
  • Employability and Skills Programme


  • Programme Convenor, MSc Media & Communications
  • Director, Postgraduate Programmes in Sociology & Communications
  • Director Centre for Culture ,Media and Regulation
  • Co-ordinator International Network for Moral Panics

Research supervision

Emeka Dumbili: Media, Alcohol Consumption and Young People in Awka, Nigeria; Awarded 2015

Miri Moon Journalistic Challenges and Global Dynamics of News Gathering in the South Korean Peninsula; Awarded 2015

Marta Villela Vila: Social Media, Gender and Health; Completion for 2019

Lama Alhamourri: Framing and Perception of the US Presidential Election 2008 in Arab media; Awarded 2014

Gabrielle Samuel: Media Representations of Experimental Neuroscience; Awarded 2014.

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Dumbili, E.  and Henderson, L.   (Accepted)   'Mediating Alcohol Use in Eastern Nigeria: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Role of Popular Media in Young People's Recreational Drinking'. Health Education ResearchDownload publication 

Henderson, L.   (Accepted)   'Popular Television and Public Mental Health: Creating Media Entertainment from Mental Distress'. Critical Public HealthDownload publication 

Henderson, L.  and Carter, S.   (2016)   'DOCTORS IN SPACE (SHIPS): BIOMEDICAL UNCERTAINTIES, MEDICAL AUTHORITY AND IMAGINED FUTURES'. Journal of Medical Humanities. doi: 10.1136/medhum-2016-010902 Download publication 

Henderson, L.   (2014)   'News for Everyone? Perspectives of Young People and Uk Journalists on Political Reporting in UK Television'. Young: Nordic journal of youth research, 22 (2).  pp. 135 - 152. doi: 10.1177/1103308814521623 

Henderson, L.   (2014)   'News for Everyone? Perspectives of Young People and Journalists on Political Reporting in UK Television'. Young: Nordic Journal of Youth Research, 22 (2).  pp. 135 - 152. doi: 10.1177/1103308814521623 

Henderson, L.   (2012)   'Gender, sexuality and mental illness in Homeland'. BMJ: British Medical Journal

Henderson, L.   (2011)   'Cot death in EastEnders'. BMJ: British Medical Journal

Henderson, L.   (2011)   'Book review: Mediating madness: Mental distress and cultural representation'. European Journal of Communication, 26 pp. 392 - 396. doi: 10.1177/0267323111428401 

Henderson, L. , McMillan, B. , Green, JM.  and Renfrew, MJ.   (2011)   'Men and infant feeding: Perceptions of embarrassment, sexuality and social conduct in white low income British men'. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, 38 (1).  pp. 61 - 70. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2010.00442.x Download publication 

Henderson, L. , Millett, C.  and Thorogood, N.   (2008)   'Perceptions of childhood immunization in a minority community: Qualitative study'. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101 (5).  pp. 244 - 251. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2008.070363 Download publication 

Henderson, L.   (2008)   'How mad are we?'. BMJ, 337 doi: 10.1136/bmj.a2641 

Wayne, M. , Henderson, L. , Murray, C.  and Petley, J.   (2008)   'Television news and the symbolic criminalisation of young people'. Journalism Studies, 9 (1).  pp. 75 - 90. doi: 10.1080/14616700701768105 Download publication 

Henderson, L.  and Kitzinger, J.   (2007)   'Orchestrating a science 'event': The case of the Human Genome Project'. International Journal of New Genetics and Society, 26 (1).  pp. 65 - 83. doi: 10.1080/14636770701218175 

Henderson, L.  and Franklin, B.   (2007)   'Sad not bad: Images of social care professionals in popular UK television drama'. Journal of Social Work, 7 (2).  pp. 133 - 153. doi: 10.1177/1468017307080352 

Williams, C. , Kitzinger, J.  and Henderson, L.   (2003)   'Envisaging the embryo in stem cell research: Rhetorical strategies and media reporting of the ethical debates'. Sociology of Health and Illness, 25 (7).  pp. 793 - 814. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-9566.2003.00370.x 

Henderson, L. , Kitzinger, J.  and Green, J.   (2000)   'Representing infant feeding: Content analysis of British media portrayals of bottle feeding and breast feeding'. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 321 (7270).  pp. 1196. doi: 10.1136/bmj.321.7270.1196 

Henderson, L.  and Kitzinger, J.   (1999)   'The human drama of genetics: 'hard' and 'soft' media representations of inherited breast cancer'. SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH & ILLNESS, 21 (5).  pp. 560 - 578. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.00173 


Henderson, L.  and Carter, S.   (2013) Using Qualitative Research Design.  Sage Publications 

Wayne, M. , Petley, J. , Murray, C.  and Henderson, L.   (2010) Television news, politics and young people: Generation disconnected?. New York, NY:  Palgrave Macmillan 

Henderson, L.   (2007) Social issues in television fiction. Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press 

Book chapters

Henderson, L.  (2010)   'Medical TV dramas: Health care as soap opera', in Panitch, L.  and Leys, C. (eds.) Morbid symptoms: Health under capitalism.  London Merlin Press pp. 198 - 215. 

Henderson, L.  (2008)   'Media: Reframing the debates', in Tummey, R.  and Turner, T. (eds.) Critical issues in mental health.  Palgrave Macmillan pp. 23 - 47. 

Henderson, L.  (2008)   'Popular media and epidemic disease: Recent trends', in Byrne, JP. (ed.) Encyclopedia of pestilence, pandemics and plagues.  Santa Barbara, CA Greenwood Publishing Group pp. 556 - 559. 

Kitzinger, J. , Williams, C.  and Henderson, L.  (2007)   'Science, media and society: The framing of bioethical debates around embryonic stem cell research between 2000 and 2005', in Glasner, PE. , Atkinson, P.  and Greenslade, H. (eds.) New genetics, new social formations.  Oxon, UK Routledge pp. 204 - 252. 

Carter, S.  and Henderson, L.  (2005)   'Approaches to qualitative data collection in social science', in Bowling, A.  and Ebrahim, S. (eds.) Handbook of health research methods: Investigation, measurement and analysis.  Maidenhead, UK Open University Press pp. 215 - 229. 

Saywell, C. , Henderson, L.  and Beattie, L.  (2000)   'Sexualised illness: The newsworthy body in media representations of breast cancer', in Potts, LK. (ed.) Ideologies of breast cancer: Feminist perspectives.  Basingstoke Palgrave Macmillan pp. 37 - 62. 

Henderson, L.  (2000)   'Gen wird popular: Inhalte und Rezeption der beitrage zum Thema Brustkrebforschung, in der britischen Medien', in Jazbinsek, D. (ed.) Gesundheitskommunikation.  Weisbaden VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften pp. 229 - 245. 

Philo, G.  and Henderson, L.  (1999)   'Audience responses to suicide in a television drama', in Philo, G. (ed.) Message received.  Essex Pearson pp. 82 - 89. 

Philo, G.  and Henderson, L.  (1999)   'Why go to casualty? Health fears and fictional television', in Philo, G. (ed.) Message received.  Essex Pearson pp. 93 - 105. 

Henderson, L.  (1999)   'Producing serious soaps', in Philo, G. (ed.) Message received.  Essex Pearson pp. 62 - 81. 

Philo, G. , Secker, J. , Platt, S. , Henderson, L. , et al.  (1996)   'Media images of mental distress', in Heller, T. , Reynolds, J. , Gomm, R. , Muston, R.  and Pattison, S. (eds.) Mental health matters: A reader.  Palgrave Macmillan pp. . 

Henderson, L.  (1996)   'Selling suffering: Mental illness and media values', in Philo, G. (ed.) Media and mental distress.  Longman pp. 18 - 36. 

Conference papers

Henderson, L.   (2014)   'Challenging stigma and creating entertainment or vice versa? Perspectives of programme-makers on developing mental distress stories in UK primetime television' , XVI World Congress of Psychiatry: Focusing on Access, Quality and Humane Care, Madrid, Spain.. Madrid, Spain. 14 - 18 September. [unpublished].  

Henderson, L.   (2014)   'Mediating mental distress in young people: The role of popular media in challenging stigma' , XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan.. Yokohama, Japan. 13 - 19 July. [unpublished].  

Henderson, L.   (2013)   'Media, politics and questions of trust: A study of UK television news, young people and political journalists' , Why Should I trust you? Challenges for Communication in Times of Crisis, Co sponsored by Asociacion de Comunicacion Politica-(ACOP) and the Asociacion Espanola de Investigacion de la Comunicacion (AE-IC), International Communication Association and Facultad de Ciencias de la Comunicacion, Universidad Malaga, Spain.. Malaga, Spain. 18 - 20 July. [unpublished].  

Henderson, L.   (2013)   'Entertainment or education: Telling health stories in primetime' , Challenging Communication Research International Communication Research Conference, London.. London. 17 - 22 June. [unpublished].  

Henderson, L.   (2012)   'Serious entertainment: Reflections on health stories in UK drama' , Storytelling and Narratives, University of Amsterdam.. University of Amsterdam. 21 - 22 June. [unpublished].  


Henderson, L.   (2004)  Social work & social care professionals in popular British drama: An analysis of 3 months coverage 1st March - 31st May 2003.  Commissioning body: Department of Health 

Henderson, L. , Thorogood, N.  and Millett, C.   (2003)  Exploring the reasons for low uptake of childhood immunisation in the orthodox Jewish community, North East London.  Commissioning body: City and Hackney Primary Care Trust 

Kitzinger, J. , Henderson, L. , Smart, A.  and Eldridge, J.   (2002)  Media coverage of the ethical, legal and social implications of new human genetic research.  Available at: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/jomec/resources/humangeneticresearch.pdf 

Henderson, L.  and Kitzinger, J.   (2000)  Breast cancer and the media.  Commissioning body: NHS Executive 

Hastings, G.  and Henderson, L.   (1999)  The role of media advocacy in challenging health inequalities.  Commissioning body: Health Development Agency 

Henderson, L.  and Kitzinger, J.   (1999)  Infant feeding in the media: An analysis of representation and influence.  Commissioning body: ESRC 

Henderson, L.   (1996)  Incest in Brookside: Audience responses to the Jordache story.  Place of publication: Glasgow Media Group 

Page last updated: Friday 18 November 2016