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Dr Matthew Owens

Dr Matthew Owens

Lecturer in Psychology & Programme Director for the MSc Clinical Psychology


 Sir Henry Wellcome Building for Mood Disorders Research F07


Sir Henry Wellcome Building for Mood Disorders Research, University of Exeter, Queens Drive, Exeter, EX4 4QQ, UK


Matt is a Developmental Psychologist whose primary research area is the prevention and treatment of common mental illnesses such as depression, with a particular focus on understanding the underlying mechanisms involved in its aetiology and pathogenesis in children, adolescents and young adults. Matt is committed to leading research that will help prevent this very common and debilitating disorder, which often has its roots in adolescence and young adulthood.


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (Distinction), University of Exeter - 2021
  • PhD in Psychology, University of Southampton - 2008
  • MSc (Distinction) Research Methods in Psychology, University of Southampton - 2005


Matt started his research career as a Research Assistant at the Dorset Research Development and Support Unit with Professor Roger Baker. Here he worked on a clinical psychology programme developing an emotional processing paradigm. Matt gained his MSc in Research Methods at the University of Southampton, where he went on to win an ESRC-funded collaborative award with the School of Psychology and Hampshire Educational Psychology Service.

His PhD focussed on how anxiety and depression affect working memory processes and academic performance in schoolchildren. He was supervised by Dr Julie Hadwin and Professor Jim Stevenson at the University of Southampton and examined by Professor Michael Eysenck (University of London).  

Matt then took a position as postdoctoral scientist with Professor Ian Goodyer in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge (2009-2014). In this role he tested and developed models of emotional disorder and psychological traits in large longitudinal cohorts.

Matt then moved to the University of Exeter to work with Professor Ed Watkins as a Research Fellow at the MDC and Trial Manager for the multi-centre European trial (MooDFOOD) that assessed the effect of nutritional strategies on the prevention of depression.

Matt is currently the Programme Director for the MSc Clinical Psychology Programme and teaches on a number of modules including his Year 3 undergraduate module on Prevention Science in Developmental Psychopathology (PSY3446).

Current research interests are focused on understanding how contact with nature can improve wellbeing.


Research group links

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Research interests

Matt’s current research focus revolves around lifestyle factors, in particular how natural environments can be beneficial for mental wellbeing. To facilitate this project, Matt co-founded the collaborative research Research grOup for Wellbeing And Nature (ROWAN) investigating the link between contact and connection with natural environments and wellbeing.

Research projects

ROWAN Research Group Projects:

  • The effect of nature-based meditation on depressive rumination and mental wellbeing.
  • Nature-based guided imagery and self-compassion.
  • Group behavioural activation indoors versus outdoors: A preference trial in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
  • Connection with nature and high wellbeing: A qualitative study.
  • An online experimental invesitgation into the effects of soothing images on stress and mood.

Research networks

In my research I collaborate with a number of colleagues at the Univeristy of Exeter including Professor Ed Watkins, Dr Lamprini Psychogiou, Professor Anna Adlam, Professor Ginny Russell. I also collaborate with Professor Ian Goodyer and team (Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge) and Professor Jim Stevenson and Dr Julie Hadwin (School of Psychology, University of Southampton).


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Journal articles

Castro A, Gili M, Visser M, Penninx BWJH, Brouwer IA, Montaño JJ, Pérez-Ara MÁ, García-Toro M, Watkins E, Owens M, et al (2023). Soft Drinks and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Overweight Subjects: a Longitudinal Analysis of an European Cohort. Nutrients, 15(18), 3865-3865. Abstract.
Owens M, Bunce H (2023). The effect of brief exposure to virtual nature on mental wellbeing in adolescents. Sci Rep, 13(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Rowley M, Topciu R, Owens M (2022). A Systematic Review of Mechanisms Underpinning Psychological Change Following Nature Exposure in an Adolescent Population. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 19(19). Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Townsend E, Hall E, Bhatia T, Fitzgibbon R, Miller-Lakin F (2022). Mental Health and Wellbeing in Young People in the UK during Lockdown (COVID-19). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(3). Abstract.
Owens M, Bunce HLI (2022). Nature-Based Meditation, Rumination and Mental Wellbeing. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 19(15). Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Bunce HLI (2022). The Potential for Outdoor Nature-Based Interventions in the Treatment and Prevention of Depression. Front Psychol, 13 Abstract.  Author URL.
White R, Russell G, Qualter P, Owens M, Psychogiou L (2021). Do peer relationships mediate the association between children’s facial emotion recognition ability and their academic attainment? Findings from the ALSPAC study. Contemporary Educational Psychology
Vreijling SR, Penninx BWJH, Bot M, Watkins E, Owens M, Kohls E, Hegerl U, Roca M, Gili M, Brouwer IA, et al (2021). Effects of dietary interventions on depressive symptom profiles: results from the MooDFOOD depression prevention study. Psychol Med, 52(15), 1-10. Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Watkins E, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Roca M, Kohls E, Penninx BWJH, van Grootheest G, Hegerl U, Gili M, et al (2021). Habitual Behavior as a Mediator Between Food-Related Behavioral Activation and Change in Symptoms of Depression in the MooDFOOD Trial. Clinical Psychological Science, 9(4), 649-665. Abstract.
Dogan-Sander E, Baldofski S, Mauche N, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Cabout M, Gili M, van Grootheest G, Hegerl U, Owens M, et al (2021). Overweight and obese individuals with depressive symptoms from the MooDFOOD prevention trial: Role of sociodemographic, somatic health, and weight related factors. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 4
Owens M, Watkins E, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Roca M, Kohls E, Penninx B, van Grootheest G, Cabout M, Hegerl U, et al (2020). Acceptability and feasibility of two interventions in the MooDFOOD Trial: a food-related depression prevention randomised controlled trial in overweight adults with subsyndromal symptoms of depression. BMJ Open, 10(9). Abstract.  Author URL.
Pérez-Ara MÁ, Gili M, Visser M, Penninx BWJH, Brouwer IA, Watkins E, Owens M, García-Toro M, Hegerl U, Kohls E, et al (2020). Associations of Non-Alcoholic Beverages with Major Depressive Disorder History and Depressive Symptoms Clusters in a Sample of Overweight Adults. Nutrients, 12(10), 3202-3202. Abstract.
Paans NPG, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Visser M, Gili M, Roca M, Hegerl U, Kohls E, Owens M, Watkins E, et al (2020). Effects of food-related behavioral activation therapy on eating styles, diet quality and body weight change: Results from the MooDFOOD Randomized Clinical Trial. J Psychosom Res, 137 Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Watkins E, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Roca M, Kohls E, Penninx BWJH, van Grootheest G, Hegerl U, Gili M, et al (2020). Nutrition and depression: Summary of findings from the EU‐funded MooDFOOD depression prevention randomised controlled trial and a critical review of the literature. Nutrition Bulletin, 45(4), 403-414. Abstract.
Thesing CS, Milaneschi Y, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Owens M, Hegerl U, Gili M, Roca M, Kohls E, Watkins E, et al (2020). Supplementation-induced increase in circulating omega-3 serum levels is not associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms: Results from the MooDFOOD depression prevention trial. Depress Anxiety, 37(11), 1079-1088. Abstract.  Author URL.
Baldofski S, Mauche N, Dogan-Sander E, Bot M, Brouwer IA, Paans NPG, Cabout M, Gili M, van Grootheest G, Hegerl U, et al (2019). Depressive Symptom Clusters in Relation to Body Weight Status: Results from Two Large European Multicenter Studies. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10
Bot M, Brouwer I, Roca M, Kohls E, Penninx B, Watkins ER, van Grootheest G, Cabout M, Hegerl U, Gili M, et al (2019). Effect of Multinutrient Supplementation and Food-Related Behavioral Activation Therapy on Prevention of Major Depressive Disorder Among Overweight or Obese Adults with Subsyndromal Depressive Symptoms. JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association, 321, 858-868.
Grasso AC, Olthof MR, van Dooren C, Roca M, Gili M, Visser M, Cabout M, Bot M, Penninx BWJH, van Grootheest G, et al (2019). Effect of food-related behavioral activation therapy on food intake and the environmental impact of the diet: results from the MooDFOOD prevention trial. European Journal of Nutrition, 59(6), 2579-2591. Abstract.
Psychogiou L, Russell G, Owens M (2019). Parents’ postnatal depressive symptoms and their children's academic attainment at 16 years: Pathways of risk transmission. British Journal of Psychology
van Harmelen A-L, Gibson JL, St Clair MC, Owens M, Brodbeck J, Dunn V, Lewis G, Croudace T, Jones PB, Kievit RA, et al (2016). Friendships and Family Support Reduce Subsequent Depressive Symptoms in At-Risk Adolescents. PLOS ONE, 11(5), e0153715-e0153715.
Spence R, Owens-Solari M, Goodyer I (2016). Help-seeking in emerging adults with and without a history of mental health referral: a qualitative study. BMC Research Notes, 9(1). Abstract.
Roca M, Kohls E, Gili M, Watkins E, Owens M, Hegerl U, van Grootheest G, Bot M, Cabout M, Brouwer IA, et al (2016). Prevention of depression through nutritional strategies in high-risk persons: rationale and design of the MooDFOOD prevention trial. BMC Psychiatry, 16 Abstract.  Author URL.
Memarzia J, St Clair MC, Owens M, Goodyer IM, Dunn VJ (2015). Adolescents leaving mental health or social care services: predictors of mental health and psychosocial outcomes one year later. BMC Health Serv Res, 15 Abstract.  Author URL.
Corder K, Atkin AJ, Bamber DJ, Brage S, Dunn VJ, Ekelund U, Owens M, van Sluijs EMF, Goodyer IM (2015). Revising on the run or studying on the sofa: prospective associations between physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and exam results in British adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1).
Owens M, Herbert J, Jones PB, Sahakian BJ, Wilkinson PO, Dunn VJ, Croudace TJ, Goodyer IM (2014). Elevated morning cortisol is a stratified population-level biomarker for major depression in boys only with high depressive symptoms. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 111(9), 3638-3643. Abstract.  Author URL.
Toseeb U, Brage S, Corder K, Dunn VJ, Jones PB, Owens M, St Clair MC, van Sluijs EMF, Goodyer IM (2014). Exercise and depressive symptoms in adolescents: a longitudinal cohort study. JAMA Pediatr, 168(12), 1093-1100. Abstract.  Author URL.
Brodbeck J, Goodyer IM, Abbott RA, Dunn VJ, St Clair MC, Owens M, Jones PB, Croudace TJ (2014). General distress, hopelessness-suicidal ideation and worrying in adolescence: concurrent and predictive validity of a symptom-level bifactor model for clinical diagnoses. J Affect Disord, 152-154, 299-305. Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Stevenson J, Hadwin JA, Norgate R (2014). When does anxiety help or hinder cognitive test performance? the role of working memory capacity. Br J Psychol, 105(1), 92-101. Abstract.  Author URL.
Spence R, Owens M, Goodyer I (2013). The longitudinal psychometric properties of the EAS temperament survey in adolescence. J Pers Assess, 95(6), 633-639. Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Goodyer IM, Wilkinson P, Bhardwaj A, Abbott R, Croudace T, Dunn V, Jones PB, Walsh ND, Ban M, et al (2012). 5-HTTLPR and early childhood adversities moderate cognitive and emotional processing in adolescence. PLoS One, 7(11). Abstract.  Author URL.
Walsh ND, Dalgleish T, Dunn VJ, Abbott R, St Clair MC, Owens M, Fairchild G, Kerslake WS, Hiscox LV, Passamonti L, et al (2012). 5-HTTLPR-environment interplay and its effects on neural reactivity in adolescents. Neuroimage, 63(3), 1670-1680. Abstract.  Author URL.
Owens M, Stevenson J, Hadwin JA, Norgate R (2012). Anxiety and depression in academic performance: an exploration of the mediating factors of worry and working memory. School Psychology International, 33(4), 433-449. Abstract.
Baker R, Owens M, Thomas S, Whittlesea A, Abbey G, Gower P, Tosunlar L, Corrigan E, Thomas PW (2012). Does CBT facilitate emotional processing?. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 40(1), 19-37. Abstract.
Hinrichs S, Owens M, Dunn V, Goodyer I (2012). General practitioner experience and perception of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) care pathways: a multimethod research study. BMJ OPEN, 2(6).  Author URL.
Spence R, Owens M, Goodyer I (2012). Item response theory and validity of the NEO-FFI in adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 53(6), 801-807.
Akister J, Owens M, Goodyer IM (2010). Leaving care and mental health: Outcomes for children in out-of-home care during the transition to adulthood. Health Research Policy and Systems, 8 Abstract.
Owens M, Stevenson J, Norgate R, Hadwin JA (2008). Processing efficiency theory in children: working memory as a mediator between trait anxiety and academic performance. Anxiety Stress Coping, 21(4), 417-430. Abstract.  Author URL.
Baker R, Thomas S, Thomas PW, Owens M (2007). Development of an emotional processing scale. J Psychosom Res, 62(2), 167-178. Abstract.  Author URL.
Baker R, Holloway J, Thomas PW, Thomas S, Owens M (2004). Emotional processing and panic. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42(11), 1271-1287. Abstract.
Baker R, Holloway J, Holtkamp CCM, Larsson A, Hartman LC, Pearce R, Scherman B, Johansson S, Thomas PW, Wareing LA, et al (2003). Effects of multi-sensory stimulation for people with dementia. J Adv Nurs, 43(5), 465-477. Abstract.  Author URL.


Watkins E, Owens-Solari M, Cook L (2018). Habits in depression: Understanding and intervention. In Verplanken B (Ed) The Psychology of Habit Theory, Mechanisms, Change, and Contexts, Springer. Abstract.


Goodyer IM, Owens M, St.Clair M, Wilkinson P (2011). Currencies for Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS): a Report to the Payment by Results Group, Department of Health. Department of Health, NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for Cambridge & Peterborough.
Dunn VJ, Owens M, Gwaspari M, Harris K, Ryan M, Tsancheva S, Goodyer IM (2011). Transfer of Care at 17 (TC-17) - pilot phase. An investigation of factors which influence two groups of young people facing transitional care at 17: 1. young people in local authority care (YPiC); 2. CAMHS users (CAMHSu). NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for Cambridge & Peterborough. National Institute of Health Research, NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for Cambridge & Peterborough.
Owens M, Ryan M, Gwaspari M, Harris K, Dunn VJ, Goodyer IM (2010). Child and adolescent mental health and social care services in Cambridge and Peterborough: a quantitative mapping exercise. A Report for the Cambridge & Peterborough Child and Adolescent CLAHRC theme. National Institure for Health Research, NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for Cambridge & Peterborough.

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External Engagement and Impact

Awards and distinctions

  • 2021 - Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • 2021 - Deputy Vice Chancellor (University of Exeter) Education Commendation
  • 2014 - My paper on cortisol and depression was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – the fourth most-cited journal in the health and medical sciences
  • 2013 - Accepted as Postdoctoral member of Clare Hall College, University of Cambridge
  • 2012 - Most read article in School Psychology International
  • 2012 - Published in the British Journal of Psychology, our paper on anxiety and working memory featured in the British Psychological Society Annual report
  • 2012 - Accepted as postdoctoral member of Clare Hall College, University of Cambridge.
  • 2011 - Spence, R., Owens, M., Goodyer, I.M. Temperament and Personality in Adolescents. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting for the Society for Personality Assessment, Boston, USA. First place
  • 2008 - Winner of the Gordon Trasler Award (University of Southampton) honouring original work relating to the application of psychological research for the benefit of society

Editorial responsibilities

Matt acts as a reviewer for a number of peer-review academic journals including:

  • Psychological Medicine
  • Biological Psychology
  • Cognition and Emotion
  • Anxiety, Stress & Coping
  • Learning and Individual Differences
  • Behaviour Research and Therapy

Invited lectures

  • Owens, M. (2019, June). The potential of food in the prevention of depression the MooDFOOD tria​l. Invited talk at The British Nutrition Foundation, Kings College London, UK

  • Owens, M. (2013, March). Anxiety, working memory and academic performance in schoolchildren. Invited talk presented at the Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University, UK.
  • Owens, M. (2012, December). Anxiety and Academic Performance. Invited talk presented at the Attention and executive functioning in high-trait anxiety: Implications for cognitive and academic performance workshop, Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania.

Media Coverage

Matt’s research has been featured widely in the media.

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Currently I am a Programme Director, Personal Tutor and teach and supervise on the following modules:

  • Prevention Science in Developmental Psychopathology (PSY3446)
  • Cognition, Emotion and Development (PSY1207)
  • Clinical Psychology Placement (PSYM233)
  • Psychology Research Project Supervision (PSY3401)
  • Research Apprenticeship Supervision (PSYM210)

I have taught on the following Exeter modules in the past:

  • Classic studies in Psychology (PSY1126)
  • Contemporary Issues in Psychology (PSY3403)
  • Women's Mental Health (PSY3430)
  • Development Psychology and Psychopathology (PSY2306)



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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Heather Stephenson. Exploring the role of contact with nature in the context of brief psychological interventions for young people experiencing depressive symptoms (DClinPsy).


  • Dr Megan Rowley, DClinPsy. Nature and mental wellbeing in adolescence
  • Dr Ruth Spence, PhD. How personality and temperament affect mental health service use (with Professor Ian Goodyer, University of Cambridge).

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Office Hours:

Matt's office hours in Term 2 (2024) are:

4/3/24 - Monday   - ONLINE

Monday 11:00am - 12:00pm 

Thursday 1pm - 2pm - ONLINE

Please use calendly to book

or just email me!

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