Professor Chris Bonell


of Public Health Sociology


15-17 Tavistock Place
United Kingdom

+44 (0)20 7612 7918

Prior to working at LSHTM I was Professor of Sociology & Social Policy at University College London and Professor of Sociology & Social Intervention at the University of Oxford. I was also previously Research Team Leader in the UK government’s Social Exclusion Unit.


My main areas of research are on adolescent health, sexual health, substance use and social exclusion and health, as well as in research methodology.


My research on adolescent health focuses on how schools and school based interventions as well as youth services can benefit or harm young people’s health. My research on sexual health examines the broader social determinants of adolescent sexual health behaviours and outcomes, and interventions to address these. I am also interested in the normal distribution of sexual risks and consequent need for universal interventions. I have also developed a programme of research in collaboration with Sigma Research on the sexual health of gay and other men who have sex with men. This has in particular focused on the interactions between substance use and sexual behaviour. In terms of substance use, my main interest is in the initiation of this in adolescence and interventions to minimise risks.


Almost all of my research is concerned with how social exclusion in the form of poverty or other forms of disadvantage is associated with health risks. As well as the above, my research has examined for example how HIV risk in low income settings is associated with poverty and educational disadvantage, as well as how educational disengagement and subsequent adolescent health risks are inadvertent consequences of current UK educational policies. My research has also critiqued some formulations of social exclusion, for example demonstrating that risk of teenage pregnancy far from being a problem of a discrete group of social excluded adolescents is actually normally distributed and so requires universal not merely targeted interventions.


In terms of methodology I have written a number of methodological papers on: theorising and evaluating intervention harms; realist trials which combined rigorous evaluations of intervention effects with quantitative and qualitative analyses of what works for whom under what conditions; systematic reviews not only of effectiveness evidence but also process evaluation, qualitative evidence and theories of change; situations in which randomised trials are not appropriate and what alternatives exist; process evaluation; and empirical assessment of intervention transferability. Recent work on ‘dark logic models’ to hypothesise and measure intervention harms was awarded the President’s Prize by the European Society for Prevention Research.


Faculty of Public Health and Policy
Public Health, Environments and Society


Centre for Evaluation
Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive & Child Health (MARCH)


I currently lecture on Health Promotion Foundations and Health Promotion Approaches and Methods.


I have supervised nine students to completion of doctorates and have five current students. Lauren Herlitz is examining the sustainability of school-based health interventions once a trial is completed. Amy Peterson is examining how the school environment influences student sexual health to inform development of a complex intervention. Hartley Dutczak is examining student preferences about who teaches relationships and sex education. Rebecca Meiksin is examining social norms within interventions to address dating and relationship violence. Emily Warren is undertaking realist analyses of a whole-school bullying prevention intervention.


Current major projects include:


4th National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and  Lifestyles. Co-I (LSHTM PI), Wellcome Trust.

Optimisation, feasibility testing and pilot randomised trial of Positive Choices: a school based social marketing intervention to promote sexual health, prevent unintended teenage pregnancies and address health inequalities in England. PI, National Institute of Health Research Public Health Research programme.

How can e-health interventions reduce the 'syndemic' of HIV/STIs and sexual risk, substance use and mental ill health among men who have sex with men. PI, National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research programme.

Research Area
Complex interventions
Health outcomes
Health promotion
Public health
Sexual health
Social and structural determinants of health
Systematic reviews
Adolescent health
Behaviour change
Evidence use
Impact evaluation
Mixed methods
Implementation research
Qualitative methods
Randomised controlled trials
Substance use
Social Sciences
Disease and Health Conditions
Non-communicable diseases
Sexually transmitted infection
United Kingdom

Selected Publications

Examining intervention mechanisms of action using mediation analysis within a randomised trial of a whole-school health intervention.
Bonell C; Allen E; Opondo C; Warren E; Elbourne DR; Sturgess J; Bevilacqua L; McGowan J; Mathiot A; Viner RM
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Effects of school environments on student risk-behaviours: evidence from a longitudinal study of secondary schools in England.
Bonell C; Beaumont E; Dodd M; Elbourne DR; Bevilacqua L; Mathiot A; McGowan J; Sturgess J; Warren E; Viner RM
Journal of epidemiology and community health
Effects of the Learning Together intervention on bullying and aggression in English secondary schools (INCLUSIVE): a cluster randomised controlled trial.
Bonell C; Allen E; Warren E; McGowan J; Bevilacqua L; Jamal F; Legood R; Wiggins M; Opondo C; Mathiot A
The Lancet
Defending evidence informed policy making from ideological attack.
Bonell C; Meiksin R; Mays N; Petticrew M; McKee M
BMJ (Clinical research ed)
Our future: a Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing.
Patton GC; Sawyer SM; Santelli JS; Ross DA; Afifi R; Allen NB; Arora M; Azzopardi P; Baldwin W; Bonell C
Why schools should promote students' health and wellbeing.
Bonell C; Humphrey N; Fletcher A; Moore L; Anderson R; Campbell R
'Dark logic': theorising the harmful consequences of public health interventions.
Bonell C; Jamal F; Melendez-Torres GJ; Cummins S
Journal of epidemiology and community health
The WHO Health Promoting School framework for improving the health and well-being of students and their academic achievement.
Langford R; Bonell CP; Jones HE; Pouliou T; Murphy SM; Waters E; Komro KA; Gibbs LF; Magnus D; Campbell R
The Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Realist randomised controlled trials: a new approach to evaluating complex public health interventions.
Bonell C; Fletcher A; Morton M; Lorenc T; Moore L
Social science & medicine (1982)
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