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Everyday Environments 

Led by Professor Sarah Atkinson 

The time, space and place we occupy can both positively and negatively affect our individual and collective experiences of health. How can we understand health experiences that are entangled with our ‘everyday environments’ and influenced by social interactions and norms, lived and imagined histories, politics and cultures? 

This research strand explores situated experiences of health. It spans four substantive topics:

  1. Hidden – as in taken-for-granted – elemental processes in health as expressed through weather, being in outdoor spaces, or the contexts of hazardous events like environmental pollution and natural disasters. 
  2. Hidden – as in ignored or neglected – experiences of highly stigmatised health challenges like drug addiction and obesity. 
  3. Hidden – as in invisible – dimensions of health and ill-health expression, including methods of disclosure. 
  4. Hidden assumptions framing a range of health issues and governing concepts including the nature of bodily movement, wellbeing, anxiety and menopause.  


Key projects in Everyday Environments include:

Weathered Lives

An ongoing programme of research and activity led by Cassandra Phoenix, exploring how we relate to, experience, respond and contribute to our local weather worlds within the context of a changing climate. Includes a collaboration with multidisciplinary artist Luke Jerram that references the role that the weather played in our health and mental wellbeing during lockdown, creative writing workshops for new and established writers, and a programme of research exploring the impact of winter weather on older adults’ walking practices in County Durham. 


Being Well Together

Led by Sarah Atkinson, we have collaborated with the UK’s What Works Wellbeing Centre, the University of Liverpool and the University of Birmingham on a series of projects related to community wellbeing. Our researchers have reviewed the different ways community well-being is defined, measured and evaluated; explored the links between social cohesion, community attachment, deprivation and inequality; and investigated the relationship between individual and place-based community wellbeing.



Green Social Prescribing

Green social prescribing typically involves health professionals referring patients to link workers who connect them with community-based initiatives that include gentle physical activities. Led by Tessa Pollard, our researchers are conducting in-depth qualitative research that involves spending time with people who have been referred into green social prescribing, attending local walking and gardening group sessions, and interviewing organisers and link workers. We hope to understand the impact these programmes have on people, including whether social prescribing addresses health inequalities, in order to inform the design and delivery of this kind of intervention. 


Future work in Everyday Environments will build expertise in medical humanities and social prescribing and continue to explore anxiety (including adolescent anxiety) in relation to cultural and social context, creative practice and inequalities.  


Explore research and activity in this strand: 

Atkinson, S., Bagnall, A.M., Corcoran, R., South, J., Curtis, S. (2020). Being well together: individual subjective and community wellbeingJournal of Happiness Studies 21: 1903-1921  

Atkinson, S. and Hunt, R. (eds) (2019). Geohumanities and Health: Global Perspectives on Health Geography. Switzerland: Springer 
An edited collection of essays illustrating the benefits of humanities-inspired approaches in understanding and confronting historically entrenched and recently emergent health-related challenges.   

Atkinson, S. (2021). Adolescent anxiety through the wrong end of the telescope. The Lancet: Child & Adolescent Health. 5: 11, 777-78. 

Proudfoot, J. (2019). Traumatic landscapes: Two geographies of addition. Social Science and Medicine 228:194–201.

Tupper, E., Atkinson, S. and Pollard, TM. (2020). Doing more with movement: constituting health publics in a movement volunteering programme. Palgrave Communications 6: 94.