Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


  • Occupational Science is interested in the development of research that emphasizes the variety of ways in which people are occupied and the impact that occupational engagement has on their bodies, selves and communities.

    Our current research projects include:

  • Survivors of acquired brain injury frequently experience fatigue that limits their participation in social, leisure and work activities and often lasts for many years. Occupational Therapists use a range of fatigue and lifestyle management strategies to help the individual live with their fatigue. However, the tools therapists use to assess an individual's fatigue in daily life do not provide reliable information about the daily situational factors affecting a person's fatigue experiences.

    We conducted a qualitative study investigating how ABI survivors experience fatigue ( contexts, patterns and manifestations of fatigue in daily life). The findings of this study have informed the development of a smart ecological momentary assessment of fatigue. We are now using iterative design and usability methods to establish whether the app is suitable for use in daily life by people with brain injury.


    • To identify design inconsistencies and usability problem areas within the app interface and content areas.
    • To investigate user satisfaction with the app in the context of their daily life.
    • To assess the accuracy and efficacy of triggers for the apps’ alerts (sound triggers, EMA responses and activity change triggers).
    • To investigate user perspectives of the EMA and reaction time test when using the app in daily life.

    UREC Registration No: 181198

    Principal Investigator: Leisle Ezekiel

    Funder: Oxford Brookes University

    Collaborations: Professor Tomas Ward, AIB Chair in Data Analytics, Dublin City University

    Maintaining mobility as people age is a key concern for individuals and their families. For many people the fear of losing their driving license can cause anxiety and stress.

    Currently driving fitness is assessed through on-road driving assessment, which requires prolonged testing, is stressful and expensive. There is no effective means of monitoring driving fitness.

    Using a novel approach, we propose to see if any of the standard clinical movement, thinking and eye tests could be used to help predict on-road driving performance. These tests are already collected and could be used to determine the need for an on-road driving test.

    From people over the age of 65 attending certified Mobility Centres in the UK, we will collate these standard clinical tests alongside actual on-road driving assessments. We will find out if these movements, thinking and eye tests can be used to screen who needs an on-road driving assessment.

    Principal Investigators: Dr Patrick Esser / Prof Helen Dawes

    Funder: Dunhill Medical Trust

    Collaborations: Regional Driving Assessment Centre


    'Stopping driving. How to promote self-regulation and when to bite the bullet' - presented on 24 January 2018 by Prof Rupert McShane, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

    Download the presentation slides here.

    This project seeks to develop an occupational therapy based intervention for use with young people who are experiencing the early stages of mental health problems.

    In recent years the very specific needs of young people with mental health difficulties have been acknowledged leading to an international effort to improve, treatment and recovery outcomes for young people experiencing mental health. The value of appropriately targeted, age appropriate, holistic early intervention in the early stages of illness had been proven to have positive impact on longer term outcomes. So much so that it has been widely implemented around the world. In the UK Early intervention services are now standard care for psychosis.

    Originally targeting psychosis, the scope has now broadened to include other mental health diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, personality disorder and bipolar. This is impart prompted by both clinical experience and research, that shows that the early stages of illness are poorly differentiated making accurate diagnosis difficult.

    Despite early intervention, functional recovery rates have lagged behind symptom remission rates. Poor functional recovery may be attributed to the negative impact of prodromal and acute phases of illness on normal development patterns. The consequence being that young people suffering the early stages of mental illness may find themselves struggling to adjust to living with mental illness and trying to catch up developmentally with their peers. It is this issue that the study aims to address by beginning the process to develop and test the feasibility of an occupational therapy based intervention to be used with young people in the early stages of presentation to services.

    There are 4 phases to the project. The first 2 are currently underway.

    Principal Investigator: Jackie Parsonage

    Funder: Elizabeth Casson Trust

    Supervisors: Professor Helen Dawes (Oxford Brookes University) and Professor Mona Eklund (Lund University, Sweden)

    The findings of this phenomenological study revealed that for all participants, engagement in their chosen creative activity evoked enjoyment and was of particular personal significance and meaning. Their subjective experiences highlighted the possible therapeutic potential of creative occupation, in particular, temporary mental relief from self-referential thoughts through deep immersion into the creative process.

    Deep engagement in creative occupation encompassed different types of optimal experience and might have a soothing effect on the Default Mode Network. The deliberate engagement in creative activities supports Wilcock’s theory of the use of occupation for self-restoration and keeping healthy. Additionally, the real contact with people and places facilitated a more active lifestyle which impacted also positively on the participants’ sense of well-being.

    Principal Investigator: Beatrix Ruckli