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Karen Burnell

Dr Karen Burnell

Senior Lecturer

Faculty of Sport, Health and Social Sciences


From 2000-2003, Karen read Psychology at the University of Southampton. She was then awarded a 1+3 ESRC postgraduate award to complete an MSc Research Methods in Psychology, followed by a PhD, which she completed in 2007. Her thesis was a narrative inquiry entitled ‘The Reconciliation of Traumatic War Memories throughout the Adult Lifespan: The Relationship between Narrative Coherence and Social Support’.

After a brief stint in the commercial market research sector, followed by a Research Assistant post at the University of Reading, Karen joined University College London as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2008. Here she worked as part of a multidisciplinary team to help develop and conduct complex randomised controlled trials testing psychosocial interventions for people with dementia and their carers. She joined the University of Portsmouth, School of Health Sciences and Social Work in 2011 as a lecturer, and in 2015 Karen became a Senior Lecturer. She is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Karen joined Solent University’s School of Sport, Health, and Social Sciences in the summer of 2018.

Taught courses

Further information

Teaching experience

Karen has experience of teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and has also supervised MRes, PhD, and Professional Doctoral students.

Research interests

Karen's research interests include the impact of war experience of formerly serving military personnel and the role of social support in coping with these experiences. And, more generally, the physical, mental, and emotional changes that occur throughout the adult lifespan, with a particular focus on how events in life challenge perceptions of the self (identity) and world, the impact of these challenges for wellbeing, and how these challenges can be overcome through psychosocial and narrative interventions to improve health and wellbeing in later life.

In her role Karen continues to work in the area of health and wellbeing in later life, with a particular emphasis on understanding how challenges in life are overcome and how help can be best given.

Karen is a member of the Forces in Mind Trust Mental Health Research Programme Expert Review Panel, and is part of the Editorial Team for the journal Quality in Ageing and Older Adults. She also serves as a peer reviewer for a number of journals in her area interest.

Karen has been awarded the following research funding:

  • Age UK Portsmouth: Evaluation of Age UK Portsmouth (Principal Investigator): £25,000 (17/03/16)
  • Forces in Mind: A Feasibility Study of Veteran Outreach Support (Portsmouth): Evaluating Veteran Outreach Support in Portsmouth for effectiveness and cost-effectiveness (Principal Investigator): £130,058 (05.06.14)
  • Research Development Fund (University of Portsmouth): Developing a peer support model for older veterans (Principal Investigator). £19,544 (21.11.2013)
  • Alzheimer’s Society Innovation Fund: Evaluation of a Creative Arts Service for people with dementia and their carers (PI): £22,339 (03.12.13)
  • Alzheimer’s Society Invited Tender: Kit Bags and Berets – an evaluation of an activity group specifically for veterans with dementia and their carers (PI): £4,000 to subsidise an MRes Project (02.08.13)

More information about Karen's research can be found in her PURE profile.

Recent publications

A full list of Karen's recent publications can be found on her PURE profile.

Work in progress

Karen continues to pursue research and collaboration in the area of veteran mental health and wellbeing, and is also exploring the area of maternal mental health and wellbeing.