The Health and Wellbeing of Women in Prison

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The mental and physical health of women imprisoned in England and Wales, and around the world, is consistently reported to be lower than that of the general population and men in prison. Once imprisoned it is also widely recognised that women’s health status is likely to decline. This thesis employed a mixed method design to explore women’s experiences of health and wellbeing, and the choices they could make to promote their health while incarcerated. The research is comprised of three separate studies following the collection of data from one closed Female Training Prison in England. The first study employed a survey design to collect information on women’s engagement in physical activity, healthy eating and their mental wellbeing. This revealed on a broad level that women in prison did make health enhancing decisions while incarcerated, and were trying to make healthy food choices and be physically active. The second and third study drew on recovery as a theoretical framework, and the research was grounded in the participants’ own accounts of their experiences of health and wellbeing in prison, through utilising interpretative phenomenological analysis.  Study two explored how ten women who spent the majority of their time on the main housing block of the prison experienced health and wellbeing. This study revealed that the lived environment in prison is an important determinant of health and wellbeing. The third study considered how the roles that women adopt in prison such as; gardens worker, gym orderly, or horticulture trainee, shape their experiences of health and wellbeing. Throughout studies two and three reoccurring themes of food, physical activity and health management are presented, as these were matters focused on by the participants in this study when making sense of their experiences in prison. The research is summarised with a discussion detailing the theoretical and applied contributions of the studies, along with the researcher’s reflections and thoughts for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Meek, Rosie, Supervisor
  • Glorney, Emily, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Oct 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Women
  • Imprisonment
  • Health
  • Wellbeing
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Roles

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