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Living Well

Our work addresses complex challenges from preventing and curing physical diseases such as prostate cancer and diabetes to empowering people to live well into later life, supporting emotional and mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. Through our research, we help people cope with grief, improve their relationships and health at work, embrace spirituality for healing and support the people facing the most significant adversity across the globe.

Managing our ageing

The Open University’s ‘Take Five to Age Well’ is a project that seeks to support individuals so they can live longer and healthier lives.

A row of coloured balloons with faces drawn on them

Revolutionising patient pain

Sometimes called the fifth vital sign, pain level is universal data for medical treatment. It acts as an indicator of concern, a factor towards Quality of Life, and as a means for optimising patient care. But getting regular pain data into medical records is difficult.

Person holding a Prostate Specific Antigen rapid test cassette showing a positive result

Overcoming drug resistance to prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with one in eight receiving the diagnosis in their lifetime. Fortunately, a combination of hormonal treatments and chemotherapy can successfully manage the condition and the five-year survival rate is almost 100% for early-stage patients. However, late-stage diagnoses are far harder to treat. Around half of prostate cancer sufferers will develop metastases, meaning that tumours spread throughout the body and begin affecting other organs. Repeated treatments can help control tumour growth but currently there is no cure and existing medications become less effective over time. For oncology specialists, one of the biggest challenges is overcoming the drug resistance which emerges as these aggressive tumours are repeatedly exposed to the same treatments.

A child lying on a street in Dkaha, Bangladesh, with people walking by

Saving children from a life on the streets

According to United Nations figures, more than 150 million children are spending their young lives on the streets: lost to a cycle of poverty, violence, abuse, exploitation — and poor mental health. The psychological damage to children makes it far harder for them to break the cycle and re-join wider society. Work led by Dr Sharif Haider aims to bring about real, lasting change on the streets of Dhaka in Bangladesh.

An assortment of multi-coloured antibiotics

Tackling antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to the future development of humanity. Their inappropriate use has led to an alarming rise in treatment-resistant infections and in 2019 an estimated 1.27 million people died of formerly-preventable diseases. However, despite global acknowledgement of this crisis, only two new classes of antibiotics have been discovered within the last 50 years, not nearly enough to keep pace with the growing trend of resistance. The world is reaching a tipping point and urgently needs to invest in new antibiotic treatments to ensure simple infections remain treatable.

A swarm of mosquitoes with bushes in the background

Tackling malaria

Almost every minute a child dies of malaria. This disease claimed 619,000 lives in 2021, 77% of which were children under five. Caused by a parasite, malaria is spread through infected mosquito bites and quickly becomes fatal without appropriate medical intervention. The African continent is most heavily-affected and preventative measures (such as insecticide-treated nets around sleeping areas) form a large part of the anti-malarial strategy in these regions. Strong global investment has reduced the mortality rate by almost half over the last 20 years, with over 2.2 billion nets distributed across sub-Saharan Africa since 2004. But despite these measures, this devastating disease continues to take a heavy toll on countries across the continent, with significant health and economic consequences trapping many families in a cycle of poverty and illness.

A foodbank, with bags of fruit and vegetables on a table

Boosting community-driven alternatives to the global agri-food industry

Sustainable food systems — providing affordable access to healthy, affordable foods with low carbon impact — should be extended from the margins to the mainstream, argues Dr Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He believes that people-centred, community-driven policies are needed from local authorities to facilitate such systems. Carried out with Open University colleagues, a pilot study is leading to insights into what kinds of support measures would be most helpful and how to obtain them.

Coins spread across a table and stacked in piles

Have you had your Financial Five a Day?

Challenges around financial literacy, financial competency and financial confidence are unfortunately a well-established feature of current UK society. With the Financial Conduct Authority finding that half the population has low confidence in making decisions to do with money, and that groups with the least financial competencies include those on lower incomes, young people, women, and minorities.

A field of golden-coloured wheat

How to deliver a better world of food and farming for all

The world has become dependent on a food industry machine that is hardwired for intensive farming and increasing production to feed the world’s growing population. But this giant global system cannot meet the essential need for food and nutrition security and environmental sustainability. How can such a deep-rooted dependency on intensive production be overturned without damaging food supplies? Professor Shonil Bhagwat is leading a new project to deliver practical pathways to a better, more human future for food and farming.

A romantic, elderly couple standing on a pier

Making sure intimacy stays part of ageing well

As people grow older, moments of intimacy, of emotional and physical affection, are just as important as ever - but they can also be more fleeting and unreliable: partners die, couples separate and friendships fall away. Why isn’t there more personal support to help older people maintain those moments of intimacy which are so important to health and wellbeing? A group of colleagues at The Open University is leading a project that aims to come up with practical ways forward.

A light-up red heart and blue NHS sign

Modelling tools for the survival of the NHS

The NHS is under the greatest strain of its 75-year history. Increased demand in the wake of the COVID pandemic, hitting at a time of record staff shortages and high costs, is threatening this precious national asset and urgent intervention is needed to support healthcare staff. If the NHS is to survive, it needs to increase its resilience with the resources it already has. However, with an organisation so large the scale of this challenge is immense.

Why language matters in diabetes care

Professor Cathy Lloyd’s research supports healthcare professionals worldwide to help people live better with diabetes, ensuring they feel heard, not judged.

Why we need to pay attention to our financial attitudes and emotions

Professor Mark Fenton-O’Creevy wants to help people manage their money better. During the past 25 years, his research has given us a new understanding of how attitudes and emotions influence our financial decisions.

Hearing Handel's music as he intended

Extensive research by OU Music academics into George Frideric Handel's life, career and music is helping musicians perform and record the celebrated Baroque composer's works with a greater understanding of his intentions, giving modern global audiences a window into the past.

Writing the history of brass instruments

Professor Trevor Herbert's research has enhanced how brass performers play and teach, inspired the next generation of young musicians, and introduced modern audiences to the sounds of historical brass instruments.

Revealing the dangers of hands-free phone use

Our research is informing policy on the need to reconsider current mobile phone legislation.

Why reducing youth violence is a question of public health, not law and order

Our research is pioneering a new public health approach to holistically address youth violence, its deep-rooted causes and its economic and social impact to safeguard children across England and Wales.

Why we need to talk about abortion

Professor Lesley Hoggart discusses her work to lift the veil of silence around abortion in the UK and challenge the stigma that people it affects can feel.

Tackling political exclusion through art

For many of us in the UK, politics is a spectator sport, a source of fascination and a cause of endless debate with family and friends. For others, it’s the reason to switch off the TV. But, whatever your political persuasion, Dr Agnes Czajka argues that day-to-day political posturing, scandal and sensationalism aside, understanding the fundamentals of how we organise and govern our society is crucial for everyone.

Protecting cultural heritage during war times

Professor Derek Matravers’ research has helped the international heritage professionals, policymakers, military leaders and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) understand the ethics of protecting cultural heritage in warzones.

Technology for dogs with important jobs

Our research has developed canine-centred controls which have improved how dogs support people with disabilities.

What's wrong with weddings

Nothing at all, if the weddings are the ceremonies that couples want, conducted when they want, where they want, and by whom they want. But, according to Dr Stephanie Pywell, there is quite a lot wrong with the law that governs weddings, some of which existed before Queen Victoria ascended the throne.

The thrill of seeing science in action

“When I began my career, the role of an academic was still very focused on applying for grants and publishing papers. Indeed, that’s what I focused on for a long time. But there came the point where I started thinking about how else I could have an impact with my work”, recalls Peter Taylor, a now Emeritus Professor of Organic Chemistry who joined the OU in 1978.

Improving treatment for prostate cancer

Our research has provided guidelines which have improved the quality of life for those affected by prostate cancer.

The OU researcher revolutionising relationships with tech

Despite the controversy surrounding relationship and sex education for UK children, the subject is fast becoming a mandatory component of primary and secondary school curriculums throughout the four nations. Nevertheless, Professor Jacqui Gabb says many adults are still left asking questions.

The healing power of storytelling

Dr Siobhan Campbell’s Expressive Writing and Telling group storytelling method supports trauma survivors to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences and heal through creative writing.

Effect of COVID on OU students

The project led by Dr Maria Aristeidou, Lecturer in Technology Enhanced Learning at the OU, and Dr Nashwa Ismail, Research Associate at the OU, has been funded to investigate various factors related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students at the OU.

Overcoming adversity through hope: the potential of picture fiction

The project, led by Prof Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) in the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and Dr Sarah Mukherjee, Research Associate at the OU, has been funded to develop resources for teachers, practitioners and parents to help them support children’s wellbeing.

First findings about how children are impacted by COVID-19

Research funded by the OU's Rapid Response scheme has looked at the impact of COVID-19 on children

Call for early mental health support for children during COVID-19

A team of OU researchers which studied children's experience of death anxiety during COVID-19 has called for early mental health support to address the effects on children.

How gratitude can help improve mental health after the COVID-19 pandemic

Clapping for the NHS revealed the desire to express gratitude during the pandemic, and now researchers have created a tool to enable people to say thank you more easily.

OU funds first psychological resources for organisations hub

A hub that will offer psychological resources to organisations and employees to help them to manage the effects of COVID-19 has been launched.

Launch of Creative Writing Handbook for Health Care Workers

The Creative Writing Handbook for Health Care Workers is the result of The Open University and North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust joining forces on a pilot to establish whether creative writing practice could reduce stress with Health Care Workers. This work was funded by The Open University’s rapid response COVID-19 research funding scheme.

Detecting Sars-Cov2 in sewerage systems

A research project which will develop a system to detect coronavirus in sewerage systems has received funding from the OU's Rapid Response to Coronavirus scheme

New study to enhance the impact of technologies for hospice residents

The OU Rapid Response to COVID-19 funding scheme has made it possible to enhance the use of technologies in a hospice during the pandemic

Reseach to asses the impact of COVID-19 on Emergency Responders

A project which is assessing the impact of COVID-19 on Emergency Responders has been funded by the OU Rapid Response to COVID-19 scheme