What is Health Psychology?

health psychology examines the psychological and social factors that lead to the enhancement of health, the prevention and treatment of illness, and the evaluation and modification of health policies that influence health care

A field devoted to understanding psychological influences on how people stay healthy, why they become ill, and how they respond when they do get ill. Health and illness is studied so that health psychologists can develop interventions. Analyze, improve and formulate health policy

What is “health”?

a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity - World Health Organization (1948)

it is a balance among physical, mental, and social well-being (more in Health)

wellness = usually means optimum state of health

What do health psychologists do?

  • Study the interconnection between social, psychological and biological factors that contribute to an illness
  • Why do some people get sick more often; why do some people recover faster;
  • focus on health promotion and maintenance
  • study the etiology^[General Glossary] and correlates of an illness
  • develop interventions
  • examine psychologic and social factors that influence health

Goals of Health Psychology

Why did it arise?

In the pre-historic times, most cultures did not separate mind and body. Therefore, disease was viewed as work of evil spirits. Skulls from the Stone Age ^[see also: Mind Body Problem]

trephining humour theory (four humors) bloodletting and trephining again prayers and priests renaissance BIOMEDICAL model Sigmund Freud’s theories + modern psychology gave way to BIOPSYCHOSOCIAL model

also see: History of Treating Mental Disorders

BiomedicalPhysical aspects of diseaseDisease is caused by biological factors
BiopsychosocialBiological, psychological, and social factorsDisease is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors
also see: Perspectives in Clinical Psychology

Application of Health Psychology:

Health psychology is a subfield of psychology that focuses on how psychological factors influence health, illness, and healthcare. It examines the psychological and behavioral processes in health, illness, and healthcare settings. Some of the key applications of health psychology include:

  1. Health Promotion and Behavior Change: Health psychologists work to understand the factors that influence health behaviors, such as diet, exercise, smoking, and substance abuse. They develop interventions and strategies to promote healthier behaviors and help individuals make positive changes.

  2. Stress and Coping: Health psychology explores the relationship between stress and physical and mental health. It offers coping strategies to manage stress effectively, which can have a significant impact on overall health.

  3. Patient-Provider Communication: Effective communication between healthcare providers and patients is crucial. Health psychologists study the doctor-patient relationship and work to improve communication and the patient’s understanding of their condition and treatment.

  4. Chronic Illness Management: Health psychology assists individuals with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease, in managing their conditions. It provides strategies for improving the quality of life and adherence to treatment regimens.

  5. Pain Management: Health psychologists are involved in the management of chronic pain, including developing techniques for pain relief and helping patients cope with the psychological aspects of pain.

  6. Psychosocial Aspects of Disease: Health psychology addresses the psychological impact of various diseases, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and chronic conditions. It provides support to individuals dealing with the emotional and mental aspects of illness.

  7. Public Health Interventions: Health psychologists contribute to public health efforts by researching and developing strategies to address public health concerns, such as reducing substance abuse, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, and promoting safe sex practices.

  8. Healthcare System Improvement: Health psychology plays a role in improving the healthcare system by examining factors like patient satisfaction, healthcare access, and healthcare policy. It provides insights into how to make healthcare more patient-centered and effective.