The University of Southampton

Dr Ben Ainsworth PhD

Senior Research Fellow

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Dr Ben Ainsworth is a Senior Research Fellow, who works in Psychology and Primary Care & Population Sciences, at the University of Southampton.

I’m interested in the best way to use digital platforms to offer non-pharmacological treatments– things like mindfulness, stress-reduction and breathing retraining – in order to help people with asthma.

I finished my Experimental Psychology PhD in 2013, exploring how psychological interventions (like mindfulness) can help anxiety for both clinical and non-clinical individuals with Dr Matt Garner.

I then received the MRC Centenary Award in 2013, which let me pursue my interests in mindfulness and anxiety. As a Marie Curie Scholar I conducted neuroimaging research in Cape Town (South Africa) and Leiden (Netherlands) before a post-doctoral position in Southampton where I evaluated pharmacological treatments for clinical anxiety patients using a respiratory challenge.

While I was doing this, I became interested in what psychological treatments could offer people with respiratory diseases like asthma – especially those who have underlying issues like stress, or anxiety. I co-founded the ‘Respiratory Psycho-neuro-immunology Group’ (or RPNI Group) with Prof Mike Thomas, which now includes many clinicians and researchers across centres in Southampton, Oxford & Cambridge.

I started work with Prof Lucy Yardley, developing digital ‘behaviour change’ interventions to help people with asthma. As well as improving ‘pharmacological’ self-management (targeting behaviours like better inhaler adherence), our digital programmes also use ‘non-pharmacological’ techniques like stress-reduction, mindfulness and breathing retraining. In 2016 I received an NIHR Post-doctoral Translational Fellowship from the NIHR School of Primary Care to explore this.

I’m also interested in improving how people engage with behaviour change programmes – using a range of different techniques like qualitative interviewing and statistical analysis of website usage data – and then using this research to help inform how we can improve peoples’ quality of life.




Research interests

Member of Primary Care and Population Science research group

NIHR Post-Doctoral Translational Fellowship (School of Primary Care): Developing non-pharmacological treatments for patients with asthma (2016-2018).

Research Fellow: NIHR DIPSS programme: Integrating Digital Interventions into Patient Self-Management Support. NIHR (2014- 2019).

Senior Research Assistant: Pregabalin as an augmentation treatment in generalized anxiety disorder: effectiveness, tolerability and effects on neurocognitive function. Pfizer/MRC (2013- 2014).

Marie Curie Scholar: Developing an Anxiety Disorders Research Network between leading centres. European and South African Research Network in Anxiety Disorders/EUSARNAD, (2013).

MRC Centenary Award: The examination of attention control as the functional mechanism by which mindfulness can be used to treat anxiety disorders. Medical Research Council/University of Southampton Faculty of Medicine MRC Centenary Award (2012-2013).

PhD: Emotion regulation and attention control in anxiety: the effect of mindfulness training. Medical Research Council/Economic and Social Research Council, (2009-2012).

Research group

Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology (CCCAHP)

Affiliate research groups

Centre for Clinical and Experimental Psychopharmacology (CCEP), Respiratory Psycho-Neuro-Immunology Group (RPNI), Experimental Psychopathology Laboratory (EPL)

Research project(s)


The DIPSS (Integrating Digital Interventions into Patient Self-Management Support) project has received funding of £2 million from the NIHR to examine patient digital self-management with healthcare professional support in primary care. Our aim is to develop digital behaviour change interventions for asthma and hypertension self-management, which will be examined in feasibility studies and full RCT (hypertension only). Issues surrounding the feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of digital intervention delivery will be explored with patients and healthcare professionals for each condition.


The aim is to investigate the relationship between bronchoconstriction-induced cognitive dysfunction , physiological and psychological markers and perceptions of breathlessness in people with asthma


Our aim is to provide mindfulness training to patents attending the ‘difficult asthma’ clinic in Southampton, who also have scores on a screening questionnaire indicating significant anxiety levels. We want to see if the course can be delivered (and is acceptable) to these people and to provide information to support a subsequent larger, randomised controlled study.


A primary care trial of a website based infection control intervention to modify influenza-like illness and respiratory infection transmission.

MOMA Investigating the feasibility of a mobile mindfulness-based digital intervention for patients with asthma

Mindfulness is a type of meditation-based therapy that’s been used to treat a range of health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Currently, few studies have explored how mindfulness can help chronic health conditions like asthma.



Dr Ben Ainsworth
Centre for Applications of Health Psychology Psychology (B44) University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ +44 (0) 238 059 8719
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