Craig Jackson

Professor of Occupational Health Psychology

Professor Jackson is an Occupational Health Psychologist who has been researching the relationship between peoples’ work and their health and wellbeing since the late 1990s. He also studies the relationship between occupation and offending behaviour and studies extreme violence, stalking behaviour, and violence prevention. He has been at BCU since 2002 and has been both the Head of the Psychology Department and the acting Head of the School of Social Sciences. 

  • Expert
  • Psychology
  • Active in Industry
  • Occupational Health

Research expertise

My main research passion is understanding the relationship between the jobs people do and their health. Sometimes this is simple and sometimes it can be complex, but one constant element is that the relationship between peoples’ health and the job they do is vital. People spend one-third of their lives working (and outside of sleeping, work is the single biggest occupier of our time) so it is vital that workplaces are healthy and not damaging to workers. 

As a psychologist I have witnessed the growth of the ‘stress epidemic’ in all sectors since the mid-90s, and how this still impacts workers today. I have studied how the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown shaped current workplaces and the way work is now done. Workplaces and organisations are constantly changing and the impacts this has on workers, their health, happiness and wellbeing is always evolving.

In addition to occupational health, I have also developed an interest in workplace violence, and mass casualty violence (brought about by studies into enhancing workplace safety) and how mass casualty attacks can be understood and prevented in schools, workplaces and public spaces.

Academic background

After leaving university in 1993 with a Psychology degree, I worked as an assistant psychologist in a couple of community NHS trusts - working with clients with a variety of psychological needs including adult mental heath, older health, learning disabilities and child services. I also worked with hospital patients being re-housed from a Victorian asylum into community homes - and this was the basis of my first research publication in 1996. I undertook a Masters Degree in Psychological Research Methods in 1996, and then won a Scott-Moncrief scholarship to study a PhD in Occupational Medicine, where I investigated the role of organophosphate pesticides in chronic illness development in UK sheep farmers. From there my interest in the psychological and medical impact of jobs and workplaces grew.

I am not a born-Brummie but I have an immense amount of civic pride for this city. I came to Birmingham to study “industrial disease” in 1997, because historically Birmingham was the industrial centre of the globe. Everything possible was manufactured here and exported all around the world, and as a consequence, Birmingham has seen all types of workplace and industrial diseases and injuries. This is why Birmingham became a national centre of excellence for studying occupational medicine and psychology, but hopefully Birmingham will become a healthier city and lifespans will increase, as workplaces become more health and safety focused. 

Industry connections

As an occupational psychologist with a wide-range of interests in the field, I have been incredibly lucky to work with many organisations, to do either research or training into issues that are problems for them. This has taken me around the world several times - from living in the Syrian desert for a few months to study depression in oil workers; going to Washington DC to discuss chemical exposure in US navy staff; or being consulted by the Kingdom of Bahrain on how to improve worker health. I have been very fortunate to develop links with many businesses and organisations including The British Horseracing Authority; Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; New Zealand Department of Labour; Diabetes UK; Styrene Information and Research Centre (USA); Rolls Royce Engineering; Unilever; Health & Safety Executive UK; Shell International; Health & Safety Executive UK; British Occupational Health Research Fund; and the United States Army Military Research Medical Council.

What can I learn from you?

I am very passionate about promoting the health of working people - and that includes students, so I usually take a keen interest in hearing about what people do for a living. Almost anything can be researched and understood and any problem or question has an answer or a solution can be provided by carefully thinking about it.

When talking about workplace health there is a serious moral aspect to it that I was taught by a very great man when I first came to Birmingham, who’s words I have never forgotten. “Nobody’s health should be worse at the end of a working day than it was at the start. If it is, there is something morally, ethically and legally wrong in that workplace”

Former students

Previous students of mine have gone on to work in many areas such as advanced nursing, public health, psychometric testing companies, clinical psychology, and forensic psychology. Some have gone on to study PhDs either here with me or occasionally elsewhere. Psychology is such a useful discipline, and the research skills and analytical processes we teach at postgraduate level are very useful for future employers, so there is very little limit to where students may go.

Current research 

I have studied the health effects of many unusual jobs including injured jockeys, musculoskeletal problems in gold miners, tiredness and fatigue in airline pilots, and even overweight police officers. All my projects are interesting to me, but perhaps the most interesting thing I am studying right now is with a charity, looking at how to measure the personality factors behind the safest and most careful drivers, and to identify risky or unsafe drivers in order for them to be offered enhanced driver training. 

I have previously contributed to both of the leading UK textbooks on occupational health and medicine, and I am currently editing a textbook on Occupational Wellbeing.