Research>Global Academies>Dr Rachel Sumner


Dr Rachel Sumner

Senior Resarch Fellow
Health and Human Performance Global Academy


Rachel is a Senior Research Fellow with the Health & Human Performance Global Academy. As a psychobiologist, she is an interdisciplinary researcher who incorporates psychology and biology in her work to make sense of the mechanisms that underlie how our health is affected by our lived experiences. She has broad research interests, but is principally interested in how our health is affected by the things we do and experience, both positive and negative. Her background is in understanding the cellular processes that are involved in the experience of chronic stress, and how this impacts our immune system and hormonal health. Her prime focus throughout her varied work is concentrating on the impact of injustices, and how these reach through to the various levels of our health, and how it then echoes up through individuals, groups, and societies. She is also interested in understanding more about the health and welfare of heroes and other exceptional individuals that provide critical services to society. She has published internationally in the fields of psychoneuroimmunology, psychoneuroendocrinology, occupational stress and burnout, in social prescribing programme evaluation (particularly arts for health and nature for health), and in theoretical work ranging from developing a psychological understanding of solidarity, exploring the importance of meaning in burnout, and a bioavailability model of the impact of nature on health. 


Rachel supervises a range of PhD and MPhil projects spanning health psychology, occupational psychology, social psychology, public health, and primary care. Topics include mental health and wellbeing, physical health, pro-environmental behaviour, gaming, contact with nature, professional identity, and occupational health. She supervises quantitative and mixed methods design research. 


Rachel has taught across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in psychology, health psychology, nursing, and public health. Her topics include:

  • Health psychology, particularly psychobiology
  • Biological psychology
  • Neuroscience, including psychopharmacology, pain, and addiction
  • Social psychology
  • Environmental psychology

She has developed a new textbook in health psychology: "A Biopsychosocial Approach to Health: From Cell to Society", for use in health psychology, nursing, public health, and other cognate areas. The text will be available from SAGE in Autumn 2023. 

Qualifications and Awards

PhD Psychoneuroimmunology, 2012 
MSc Health Psychology, 2007 
BSc (Hons) Psychology, 2006

External Links

Rachel collaborates with academics internationally. 
She is a chartered member of The British Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology. 
Twitter: @Dr_Sumner

Research Interests and Publications

Peer reviewed articles (selected)
Kinsella, E.L., Muldoon, O.T., Lemon, S., Stonebridge, N., Hughes, S. & Sumner, R.C. (2022). In it together? Exploring solidarity with frontline workers in the UK and Ireland during COVID-19. British Journal of Social Psychology. Accepted August 2022. 10.1111/bjso.12579
Sumner, R. C. & Kinsella, E.L. (2022). Solidarity appraisal, meaning, and markers of welfare in frontline workers in the UK and Ireland during Covid-19. SSM: Mental Health, 100099

Sumner, R.C., Cassarino, M., Dockray, S., Setti, A. & Crone, D.M. (2021). Moving towards a multidimensional dynamic approach to nature and health: A bioavailability perspective. People & Nature, 2021;00:1-9,

Kinsella, E.L., Hughes, S., Lemon, S., Stonebridge, N. & Sumner, R.C. (2021): “We shouldn't waste a good crisis”: The lived experience of working on the frontline through the first surge (and beyond) of COVID-19 in the UK and Ireland. Psychology & Health, 10.1080/08870446.2021.1928668

Sumner, R.C. & Kinsella, E.L. (2021b): “It’s like a kick in the teeth”: The emergence of novel predictors of burnout in frontline workers during Covid-19. Frontiers in Psychology, 12:1875 

Kinsella, E. L., & Sumner, R. C. (2021). High ideals: the misappropriation and reappropriation of the heroic label in the midst of a global pandemic. Journal of Medical Ethics.

Sumner, R. C., & Kinsella, E. L. (2021a). Grace Under Pressure: Resilience, Burnout, and Wellbeing in Frontline Workers in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland During the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 3757.

Sumner, R. C., Crone, D. M., Hughes, S., & James, D. V. B. (2021). Arts on prescription: observed changes in anxiety, depression, and well-being across referral cycles. Public Health, 192, 49-55.

Sumner, R.C. & Goodenough, A.E. (2020). A walk on the wild side: How interactions with non-companion animals might help reduce stress. People & Nature, 

Sumner, R.C., Bennett, R., Creaven, A-M., & Gallagher, S. (2020) Unemployment, employment precarity, and inflammation. Brain, Behavior & Immunity, 83, 303-308

Sumner, R.C., Crone, D.M., Baker, C., Hughes, S., Loughren, E.A., James, D.V.B. (2019). Factors associated with attendance, engagement, and wellbeing change in an arts on prescription intervention. Journal of Public Health, doi:

Redmond, M., Sumner, R.C., Hughes, S. & Baker, C.M. (2018). ‘Light in dark places’: exploring qualitative data from a longitudinal study of using creative arts as a form of social prescribing. Arts & Health, 11, (3), 232-245

Crone, D.M., Sumner, R.C., Loughren, E.A., Baker, C.M., Hughes, S., James, D.V.B. (2018) “Artlift” arts on prescription intervention in UK primary Care: Updated findings from an ongoing observational study. European Journal of Public Health, 

Sumner, R.C. & Gallagher, S. (2017). Unemployment as a chronic stressor: A systematic review of cortisol studies. Psychology & Health, 32, (3), p.289-311

Gallagher, S., Sumner, R.C., Muldoon., O., Creaven, A-M. & Hannigan, A. (2016) Unemployment is associated with lower cortisol awakening and blunted dehydroepiandrosterone responses. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 69, p.41-49

Sumner, R. C., Nowicky, A. V., Parton, A., Wylock, C., Cserjesi, R., Fischler, B., ... & Gidron, Y. (2014). Prospective relationship between hemispheric lateralisation and CD4+ T cells in human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Neuroimmunomodulation, 21(1), 31-36.

Sumner, R.C., Parton, A., Nowicky, A.V., Kishore, U. & Gidron, Y. (2011). Hemispheric lateralisation and immune function: A systematic review of human research. Journal of Neuroimmunology, 240-241, p.1-12