Dr Paula Saukko

PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
MSc, University of Tampere, Finland

  • Reader in Social Science and Medicine
  • she/her
Paula draws from medical sociology and science and technology studies, and her research is located between sociology and communication. Her early research critically analysed diagnostic discourses on anorexia and how they were lived by anorexic women. In this research, she applied an innovative methodology combining analysis of voices, discourses and histories and published both a book on methodology (Doing Research in Cultural Studies, Sage 2003) and a monograph (The Anorexic Self, SUNY Press, 2008).
She then moved onto studying genetic technologies and conducted a series of studies on patient experiences of genetic susceptibility testing for common complex conditions, cardiovascular risk assessment and direct-to-consumer genetic testing. This research has been published through articles in, for example, Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness and Annals of Internal Medicine.
Currently, Paula's research has two foci. First, she studies digital technologies, particularly digital health, such as self-tracking devices, but also use of digital media more generally. Second, she has conducted research on diagnosis of urinary tract infection in older adults and antimicrobial resistance, which focuses on diagnostic technologies again but this time in a hospital setting.
Paula has a first degree in Journalism from the University of Tampere, Finland, and briefly worked as a political reporter. She then moved to the USA to do a PhD in Communications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, funded by a Fulbright studentship and a Graduate College studentship. Paula immigrated to the UK in 1998 to take up a lectureship in Communication at the University of Leicester and then moved on to take up the post of Senior Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society at the University of Exeter. She came to Loughborough in 2007.  
Her research has been funded by ESRC, Wellcome Trust, Department of Health and EPSRC.

Sociology of Health and Illness, Qualitative Methodology, New Media, Science and Technology Studies.


  • SSA003 Sociological Imagination
  • SSB036 Digital Lives and Society
  • SSC022 Health, the Body and Culture


  • SSP319 Digital Cultures

Paula has completed 8 PhD students (7 as first supervisor) since 2014 and welcomes PhD students, particularly in areas of health and/or digital media.

Current postgraduate research students

  • Depounti, Iliana (2020-) “Commercial AI chatbots and mental health self-care: An ethnography of contemporary AI companionship” (ESRC 1+3 funded). With S. Natale
  • Moreton, Christie (2019-) "Digital media use among women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Intersections of health, gender identity and new technology" (ESRC 1+3 funded). With K. Coveney
  • Salem, Basma Yaser (2020-) “Analysis of use of social media as a health communication tool to improve awareness of breast cancer in Egypt“ With C. Butler

Recent postgraduate research students

  • Saukko, P. (2018) Digital health – a new medical cosmology? The case of 23andMe online genetic testing platformSociology of Health and Illness, 40(8), 1312-1326.
  • Didžiokaitė, G, Saukko, PM, Greiffenhagen, C (2018) The mundane experience of everyday calorie trackers: Beyond the metaphor of Quantified SelfNew Media and Society, 20(4), 1470-1487.
  • Qureshi, N., Armstrong, S., Dhiman, P., Saukko, P, Middlemass, J., Evans, PH, Kai, J. (2012). Effect of adding systematic family history enquiry to cardiovascular disease risk assessment in primary care: matched-pair cluster randomized controlled trial, Annals of Internal Medicine, 156(4), 253-62.
  • Saukko, P. Farrimond, H., Evans, P. & Qureshi, N. (2012). Beyond beliefs: Risk assessment technologies shaping patient experiences of heart disease prevention, Sociology of Health and Illness, 34, 4, 560-75.
  • Saukko, P., Reed, M., Britten, N. & Hogarth, S. (2010) Negotiating the boundary between medicine and consumer culture: Online marketing of nutrigenetic tests, Social Science & Medicine, 70, 5, 744-753.
  • Saukko, P. (2008). The Anorexic Self: A Personal, Political Analysis of a Diagnostic Discourse.  Albany, NY: State University of New York (SUNY) Press.
  • Saukko, P., Richards, S., Shepherd, M. & Campbell, J. (2006). Are genetic tests exceptional? Lessons from a qualitative study on thrombophilia, Social Science & Medicine, 63, 7, 1947-1959.
  • Saukko, P. (2003). Doing Research in Cultural Studies: An Introduction to Classical and New Methodological Approached. London: Sage