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Paula Holland supervises 15 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Paula Holland


Lancaster University

Furness Building



Tel: +44 1524 594762

Research overview

My research focusses on the production of gender and social inequalities in health. In particular I am interested in social inequalities in the employment and financial consequences of chronic illness, including the role of workplace adjustments and organisational policies in facilitating/ hindering the employment of people with chronic illness. My research has included the analysis of Swedish register data to investigate social inequalities in employment and income among people with musculoskeletal disorders, ischaemic heart disease and mental illness; the analysis of international datasets to explore gender and social inequalities in labour market participation among disabled and chronically ill people in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Canada; and qualitative methods to explore the employment experiences of people with rheumatoid arthritis.


PhD supervision

◦Gender and social inequalities in health;
◦Chronic illnesses (including musculoskeletal disorders) and their impact on employment, income and quality of life;
◦Impact of work on health; impact of health on work;
◦Long-term sickness absence and its management in the workplace;
◦Workplace adjustments for people with chronic illness/long-term conditions;
◦Lifecourse research.

Current Research

  • The use of social work services by children, young people and families in 4 UK cohort studies (funded by the Nuffield Foundation).
  • The Maun Homeopathy Project: Evaluation of a community health intervention (funded by the Maun Homeopathy Project).
  • The role of workplace adjustments, organisational policies and work relationships as a factor in staying in employment.  
  • Equity in access to TB services in Nigeria. With PhD student Olajumoke Onazi.
  • Toronto's Heat Weather Response System: does it address the needs of the most vulnerable? With PhD student Rajesh Benny.
  • Health professionals’ perceptions, attitudes and experiences regarding health care provision to immigrants in Greece. With PhD student Charalampos Milionis.
  • Factors influencing the management of, and prescribing practices for infants presenting with symptom of gastro oesophageal reflux. With PhD student Jean Cowie.

Research Interests

My research focusses on the production of social inequalities in health. For several years my equity work has examined how chronic illness affects individuals’ employment and financial circumstances. My work for an MRC Special Training Fellowship examined employment and income among people with chronic illness in the UK and among people diagnosed with musculoskeletal disorders, ischaemic heart disease and mental illness in Sweden. I have also worked on an international study of gender and social inequalities in labour market participation among disabled and chronically ill people in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Canada. The employment consequences of chronic illness are particularly severe among women, low-skilled manual workers and people with low education, particularly in countries like the UK and Canada which, compared to Nordic countries, spend a lower proportion of their GDP on active labour market programmes designed to help disabled people back to work, and have lower levels of welfare benefits for people unable to work.

We know less about precisely why and how people with chronic illness become detached from the labour market, or about the factors that enable them to return to employment. Previous research has shown that symptoms and other biomedical factors are less important than social and occupational factors in determining the employment status of people with musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic illnesses. I have recently completed a meta-ethnography of UK qualitative research that focused on the employment experiences of people with musculoskeletal disorders, in particular the barriers and facilitators to their participation in paid work. The results from this review guided an exploratory qualitative study of the employment experiences of people with rheumatoid arthritis who were employed before diagnosis. This study revealed that the ability to remain in employment was greatly influenced by the willingness of employers to make workplace adjustments and the support offered by employers and colleagues. 

Current Teaching

I am module convenor for DHR520 Public Health: Theory, Policy and Practice which is a core year 1 module on the PhD in Public Health. I also co-convene the annual PhD Summer Academy (DHR405), the first module of the PhD programmes in Public Health, Mental Health, Organisational Health and Well Being, and Palliative Care. 

From 2011-2014 I was the Director of Studies for the PhD in Public Health. This doctoral programme provides opportunities for professionals working within the field of public health to gain a deeper and more critical insight into their practice. The format of the programme (part-time and blended learning) has been designed to meet the needs of public health professionals wishing to enhance their research skills, develop their understanding of policy and practice and make an original contribution to knowledge development within their field, whilst at the same time fulfilling their existing responsibilities in service delivery. Current students on the programme are based in the UK and internationally and are working within government, healthcare settings, for NGOs, or in education, research and management.

The taught component of the PhD in Public Health includes modules in the theory and practice of public health, research design, quantitative and qualitative research methods and research ethics. The research component of the PhD is supervised by staff in the Division of Health Research at Lancaster University but undertaken in the student's workplace.

I supervise the research of both traditional route PhD students and students on the PhD in Public Health.

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