Week 1 Lecture 1/2
Introduction to Health Psychology
Definition of Health Psychology
• Health as ‘a complete state of physical, mental and social well being’(WHO)
• Health as a state of well being with physical, cultural, psychosocial, economic and
spiritual aspects, not simply the absence of disease
• Goal of Health Psychology
o Adeeper understanding of psychological processes as an aid to improving
physical health outcomes for individuals
• Study of social, behavioural, cognitive, and emotional factors that influence the:
o Maintenance of health
o Development of illness and disease
o Course of illness or disease
o Patient’s and family’s response to illness and disease
• Text Definition: Health psychology is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the
application of psychological knowledge and techniques to health, illness and health care
The Psychology of Health Behaviours
• How does a person’s personality impact their health?Are certain people (ex. TypeA
Personality) more likely to get sick than others?
• What impact does thinking positively have on health?
• What is stress and how does it affect health?
• What role does the media play in eating disorders?
• Why should we bother exercising?
• Healthy versus Unhealthy Choices
o Autonomy of the individual
o Shaped by social factors such as friends, family, media
Evolving View of Diseases
• Germ Theory
o Discovery that particles in the air that could not be seen (ex. Bacteria) could cause
• Magic Bullet
o Aspecific cure could be found for every ailment that restore the person to perfect
• Biopsychosocial Model
o Mind, body, and environment interact in causing disease
The Discipline of Health Psychology
• “The patient, though his condition is perilous, may recover his health simply through his
contentment with the goodness of his physician” (Hippocrates)
• Health psychology research articles Week 1 Lecture 1/2
• 1970’s was a decade of great progress
o Division of Health Psychology inAPA, 1978
Devoted to promoting health maintenance and illness prevention
• 1990’s Field of Psychoneuroimmunology
o Combines behavioural science, immunology and neuroscience
Why Health Psychology
• Shift to causes of death where behavioural pathogens are a primary source
• Estimated contributions of different factors to health status (in table below) Week 1 Lecture 1/2
• Nanny State vs. Social Responsibility
• “Coke didn’t makeAmerica Fat”
• Trends in adolescent health-related behaviours that show stable or improving patterns of
personal responsibility, 1991-2007
• Combine personal and collective responsibility approaches in ways that best serve the
• Although we ultimately need to rely on individuals making the ‘right decision’, we need
to recognize that conditions can be changed to create more optimal defaults
• How do we enhance responsible choices?
Where can Health Psychology Play a Role?
• Health Onion Week 1 Lecture 1/2
• Social Ecological Model
o This perspective emphasizes the multiple dimensions, multiple levels, and
complexity of human situations
o CDC Colorectal Screening: Multiple Levels
Individual: the need for cancer screening, the risks and benefits of
screening, and access to affordable and convenient screening (i.e.
knowledge, skills, self-efficacy)
Interpersonal: making screening recommendations to patients, patients
receiving reminders about the need of screening, patient navigators
helping to remove logistical and other barriers to screening (i.e. family