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What is Health Psychology?

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What is Health Psychology? Through the course of this essay I will consider what is meant by the term health, then I shall critically evaluate some of the factors and issues that are associated with the origins of health psychology, then present definitions and goals for this field of psychological study considering its role within the health care system and its methods of research. In order to discuses what is health psychology we need to look firstly at the changing definitions of what can be defined as health and secondly how the application of Psychology can be applied to this field of study. The World health organisation defined health as " a complete state of physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". This differed significantly from previous definitions, which had defined health in negative terms, as the 'absence of disease, dysfunction, pain, suffering or discomfort'. The WHO definition is a more holistic approach and incorporates the psychological aspects that are associated with health. Kaplan (1993) states, "a second important aspect of this definition is the recognition of the various dimensions of health status, including physical, mental and social aspects. ...read more.


Curtis (2000) States, "as the patterns of illness change over time so to has the need for new models of health". A view also shared by Sarafino (1994) "A new area of medical problems requires a whole new approach to health care". What was growing from this dissatisfaction with biomedical health care, and why its been heavily criticised since the 1970's was the general consensus among health professionals, that what was need was a philosophy of practice that adequately encompassed biological, social and psychological aspects of health and illness. Sheridan (1992) states, "This challenged to the biomedical model opened the door for psychologists to apply their knowledge, research and clinical skills to health related areas." This and the indication that behaviours, attitudes and life style events can influence health has weakened the dominance of the biomedical mode and has led to the development of the 'biopsyhosocial model'. It is not limited by the mind-body dualistic thinking but see the environment impacting on and being impacted upon the patient. It involves the interplay of biological, psychological and social aspects of a person's life. Marks (2000) states that, "the various aspects of health and illness can be organised in a hierarchy from the biosphere and society down through the individuals level of experience and behaviour to the cellular and subatomic level". ...read more.


Psychology as the science of behaviour and behaviour change can apply its applications to health, to gain an understanding of health behaviours and develop behavioural change models. This developed along side a period of economic crises within the health care system when cost were spiralling out of control as a result of these budgetary problems countries began to explore possibilities of disease prevention. There was a growing dissatisfaction with the biomedical model of health care, for a number of reasons, the individual is not a passive victim of illness and the whole person must be treated not just the physical symptoms. Health psychology argues that illness has no one specific cause of ill health or disease, rather it is multivariable, it integrates the psychological, the social and the biomedical aspects of health and this is why there work is based on the biopsychosocial model of health and illness which developed as a result of the weakening of the biomedical model. We then considered more closely definitions of health psychology and briefly defined its role within the health care system. Thus " health psychology is a sub-division of psychology concerned with the interrelationship between behaviour and cognitive processes and health and illness", it focuses more on health and health maintenance than on disease and disease prevention. ...read more.

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