This is not just an abstract discussion: stigma and discrimination can kill, as the Aids crisis of the 1980s proved. The consequences of such prejudice can be far-reaching, with LGBTQ+ people continuing to face significant health inequalities, for example. By focusing on the link between psychological health and physical health, Professor Jaspal's research seeks to understand how those inequalities arise - and, even more importantly, what public health reforms might be needed to alleviate them.
"The decisions we take - such as either engaging or disengaging with care - can have significant implications for physical health," he says. "I am trying to expose this link and thereby ensure that the patient experience is enhanced. By understanding how people will think and feel, we are better placed to understand how they will behave."
Professor Jaspal's own identity has been an important factor in conducting his research. "I believe most social science researchers address topics that resonate with them – for whatever reason," he says. "My own identity as a gay man has enabled me to ask questions that really matter. My own life experiences have undoubtedly influenced the sorts of research questions that I address."
A common thread that runs through Professor Jaspal's research is the idea that understanding who we are and how our minds work is key to wellbeing - and that such understanding can be used to make practical improvements to people's lives.
"I truly believe that psychology is relevant to absolutely every area of human life," he says. "It is the study of how human beings think, feel and behave. This is important in the workplace, in romantic relationships, in clinical settings, in politics, in relation to the economy, in urban planning, in leadership - the list goes on. Every technological, scientific, medical development also has a psychological dimension – you can create a new vaccine, for instance, but the question is how will people react to it? Will they actually use it?"
For Professor Jaspal, real-world outcomes are what ultimately matter: "Working with the British Psychological Society, I feel that my work has been able to influence policy and practice, and real-world change means a lot to me," he says. "I want to live in a just society where people can be their true authentic selves. My research is all about bringing out such societal change."
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