World’s first scientific centre for positive psychology and health

The world’s first academic centre for positive psychology and lifestyle medicine has been launched by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. It says the new Centre for Positive Psychology and Health will apply the scientific principles of positive psychology and lifestyle medicine to enhance the health and happiness of people in Ireland and around the world.

RCSI says lifestyle factors are heavily implicated in heart and lung diseases, cancers, diabetes and mental health disorders which, according to the WHO, are the world’s largest killers, accounting for an estimated 38 million deaths annually, 16 million of which are premature.

“Taken together, these conditions account for an estimated 86% of the deaths and 77% of the disease burden in the European region.

The outcome of the Centre’s work will be a population with the knowledge and support to take control of their health and wellbeing, reducing the pressure on health systems. The Centre will apply the science of positive psychology and lifestyle medicine to increase people’s sense of happiness and well-being. The Centre will provide education and training for health professionals and for the public. It will also assist public and private sector organisations to develop and implement evidence-based interventions aimed at increasing workforce well-being and engagement.

Professor Ciaran O’Boyle, Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology and Health, said, “Economic, transport and technological progress over the last number of decades has transformed our lives in many positive ways but we should not discount the negative impact of changing lifestyles on our health. We spend more time sitting than ever before. We are increasing socially disconnected. We eat more sugar, consume more alcohol and our stress levels are on the rise. While average income has increased over the past three decades, happiness has not, and many people feel that their sense of well-being could be better.”

Bringing together scientists, clinicians and educators, the Centre aims to equip people, communities and organisations with the information and skills to address these lifestyle issues and reduce the impact of lifestyle diseases on individuals and health systems.

Using interventions that already exist today, it believes the global disease burden could be reduced by about 40% and active middle age extended by 10% over the next decades. Over 70% of the gains could be achieved from prevention by creating cleaner and safer environments, encouraging healthier behaviours and addressing the social factors that lie behind these, as well as broadening access to vaccines and preventive medicine.

“The COVID crisis has accelerated a global focus on well-being. We already know that the virus will have far-reaching and long-lasting implications, not least on our resilience and our mental health.  Our work will support people to better understand their own mental health so that they can develop their resilience and learn to flourish”, added Professor O’Boyle.

The Centre will draw on the emerging disciplines of positive psychology, positive organisational research, lifestyle medicine and integrative medicine to undertake research and provide education and training in this area. It will provide a range of resources to equip people with the supports needed to take more control of their own physical and mental health.

The Centre is running a new Professional Diploma in Positive Health. The Diploma will educate health and allied professionals in the rapidly developing area of positive health.  Further information on the Professional Diploma in Positive Health can be found at www.rcsi.com/dublin/positivehealth.