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The interrelationships between psychosocial processes, behaviour and health have become the subject of increasing interest to clinicians and biomedical and social scientists over recent years. The development of disciplines such as behavioural medicine, psychosocial epidemiology, medical sociology and health psychology reflects the attention that is now being paid to this field. Material on the links between the social environment, emotion, behaviour and illness is being incorporated into the training of medical students and health professionals. Teaching on these topics has also been introduced into the graduate medical curriculum, and undergraduate and clinical psychology courses.
This growth of activity has been accompanied by the publication of specialist journals such as Health Psychology, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Stress Medicine, International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, and Psychology and Health. Textbooks for medical students and health psychologists have been introduced, while numerous edited volumes attest to the fertility of this field. However, it is our experience that access to important source material on psychosocial processes and health is limited. Students working within medical institutions may not have access to the relevant social science journals and vice versa. Key papers are published across a wide range of journals from general medical periodicals such as the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, through specialist epidemiology and social science journals, to discipline-specific publications such as the American Heart Journal and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
This set of readings has therefore been devised with the specific purpose of making available within a single book a series of important papers that have been published over the past 30 years in the area of psychosocial processes and health. Some of these papers are classics in the field, in that they were instrumental in bringing particular theoretical orientations into a wider scientific consciousness, or in establishing important empirical findings with significant clinical implications. Other papers illustrate themes in research or important research findings that we have found to be of value in kindling the interest of students at many stages of their education.