Project ID NS-MH2024_52


Co Supervisor 1A Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, School of Academic Psychiatry, Department of Psychological MedicineWebsite

Co Supervisor 1B Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, School of Academic Psychiatry, Department of Psychological MedicineWebsite

Volunteering support in mental health care: evaluating health and social outcomes through population based-research and qualitative perspectives

Modern societies are increasingly disconnected (Williams and Braun, 2019), contributing to the lack of social cohesion (Leigh-Hunt et al, 2017), to social isolation and loneliness, which has been highlighted with the Covid-19 pandemic (Kim and Bhullar, 2020). Importantly, social isolation and loneliness affect both physical and mental health (Singer, 2018). A systematic review on social capital reported that both physical and mental health benefit from social capital interventions in preventing mortality (Hughes et al, 2004).
To address this, the provision of volunteering support is increasingly used, which has been acknowledged as a social asset (Jenkinson, 2013). However, the impact of volunteering has been under-researched at the population level. This data would have the potential to inform policy and planning services and reduce the burden of mental disorders.
This study will investigate the impact of receiving volunteering support on the health and social outcomes of patients with mental disorders, through a mixed methods study.
This doctoral research will: i) explore the impact on health and social outcomes of receiving volunteering support across life span using a population-based registry in the United Kingdom and ii) explore patients’ and volunteers’ views on the impact of volunteering, through a qualitative study with individual semi-structured interviews.
Years 1 and 2: A series of analyses of CRIS data investigating the impact of volunteering in health and social outcomes.
Year 3: Interviews with patients and volunteers to investigate their experiences with remote volunteering support.
The findings from this study will inform both individual clinical practice and public mental health.
The student will work closely with both supervisors to design the studies and interpret the results. Throughout the PhD project the student will be supported by both supervisors in disseminating their work and publishing it in high impact scientific journals and presenting it in national and international meetings.

Representative Publications

Pinto da Costa M, Chevalier A, Farreny A, Cassidy M, Leverton M, et al. (2019) How would patients with psychosis like to be in contact with a volunteer: Face-to-face or digitally?. PLOS ONE 14(5): e0216929.

Pinto da Costa M, Kouroupa A, Virdi K, What is it like to communicate with a Phone Pal? The views and experiences of patients with psychosis and volunteers, SSM – Qualitative Research in Health, Volume 3, 2023, 100221, ISSN 2667-3215,

Pinto da Costa M, Conneely M, Monteiro da Silva F, et al Stakeholders’ views on volunteering in mental health: an international focus group study BMJ Open 2022;12:e052185. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-052185.

Perera G, Broadbent M, Callard F, Chang C-K, Downs J, Dutta R, Fernandes A, Hayes RD, Henderson M, Jackson R, Jewell A, Kadra G, Little R, Pritchard M, Shetty H, Tulloch A, Stewart R. Cohort profile of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Biomedical Research Centre (SLaM BRC) Case Register: current status and recent enhancement of an Electronic Mental Health Record derived data resource. BMJ Open 2016; 6: e008721.

Parmar, M., Ma, R., Attygalle, S, Mueller C, Stubbs B, Stewart R. et al. Associations between loneliness and acute hospitalisation outcomes among patients receiving mental healthcare in South London: a retrospective cohort study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 57, 397–410 (2022).

Greig, F, Perera, G, Tsamakis, K, Stewart, R, Velayudhan, L, Mueller, C. Loneliness in older adult mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic and before: associations with disability, functioning and pharmacotherapy. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2021; 1- 8. doi:10.1002/gps.5630.