Professor Paula Saukko

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

Pronouns: She/her
  • Research and Innovation Director (Criminology, Sociology & Social Policy)
  • Professor of Social Science and Medicine

Paula draws from media studies, medical sociology and science and technology studies, and her research is located between sociology and communication. Her early research critically analysed historical, medical and media discourses on anorexia and how they were lived by anorexic women. In this research she developed an innovative methodology combining the analysis of lived experience and discourses 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 and medical technologies and conducted a series of studies in collaboration with NHS organisations on patient experiences of genetic susceptibility testing for common complex conditions, cardiovascular risk assessment, direct-to-consumer genetic testing and antibiotic prescribing. This research has been published through articles in, for example, Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Health and Illness and Annals of Internal Medicine.

Paula's current research focuses on (mental) health and/or digital media use. She has conducted and supervised a series of studies on health self-tracking, digital media use and health inequalities, published in top media and sociology journals, such as New Media and Society and Sociology of Health and Illness. In her on-going research she has returned to studying eating disorders focusing on helpful and harmful experiences with digital media by people with eating disorders, encompassing interpersonal interaction, help seeking and content consumption and creation. She recently co-produced a social media guide for people with eating disorders with the national charity Beat, which can be found here: Beat social media guide - YouTube

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


  • CXP319 Digital Cultures

Paula has completed 11 PhD students and welcomes applications from doctoral researchers in areas of health and/or digital media.

Current Postgraduate Research Students

  • Depounti, Iliana (2021-) “Commercial AI chatbots and mental health self-care: An ethnography of contemporary AI companionship” (ESRC 1+3 funded). With J. Downey & S. Natale
  • Fang, Haojie, (2022-) “From traditional to digital matchmaking in China: Finding partners across platforms between familism and individualism” (Loughborough University-China Scholarship Council Studentship funded). with K Coveney & J Robles
  • Ma, Shuai (2023-) “Social media, local communities and the modernisation of alternative therapies: An ethnographic study of Miao (Hmong) practitioners of traditional medicine” with A Pfoser
  • Salem, Basma Yaser (2020-) “Analysis of use of social media as a health communication tool to improve awareness of breast cancer in Egypt“ with J. Robles
  • Zhou, Xiaobin (2021-) “More than just a game: A Bourdieusian analysis of social class and video gaming” with A. Leguina

Recent Postgraduate Research Students: