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1 - Locating the field: introducing health psychology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Antonia C. Lyons
Massey University, Auckland
Kerry Chamberlain
Massey University, Auckland
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I hope I have convinced you of some simple but far-reaching truths. That our mental state and physical health are inexorably intertwined. That stress, depression and other psychological factors can alter our vulnerability to many diseases, including bacterial and viral infections, heart disease and cancer. That the relationship between mind and health is mediated both by our behaviour and by biological connections between the brain and immune system. That these connections work in both directions, so our physical health can influence our mental state. That all illnesses have psychological and emotional consequences as well as causes. That there is nothing shameful or weak about the intrusion of thoughts and emotions into illness. That our social relationships with other people are central to health. That our dualist habit of contrasting mind and body, as though they were two fundamentally different entities, is deeply misleading.

(Martin, 1997, p. 314)

The psychology of health, illness and health care needs to be considered in economic, political, ecological, social and cultural context.

(Marks et al., 2000, p. 1)

Learning objectives

This chapter will provide an introduction to health psychology and locate studies of health and illness within their sociohistorical context. By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • provide a brief historical overview of dominant Western views on health and disease;

  • outline the historical development of psychological approaches to health and illness, and health psychology in particular;

  • define and explain the biomedical and biopsychosocial models of health and illness;

  • describe what health psychology covers as a field of study;

  • […]

Health Psychology
A Critical Introduction
, pp. 5 - 39
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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Special section on the future of health psychology. Health Psychology, vol. 23, Issue 2, 2004. In this special section, researchers and academics reflect on the twenty-five years of progress made in the field of health psychology since the American Psychological Association's Division of Health Psychology was founded. Eight articles consider both the progress of the field and the future of health psychology and make calls for areas, topics and concepts that need further attention. Several areas are covered across the articles, including the biopsychosocial model, changes in demographics and the importance of context, prevention, clinical health psychology interventions, health care financing and new technologies.
Marks, D. F. (2002). Freedom, responsibility, and power: contrasting approaches to health psychology (editorial essay). Journal of Health Psychology, 7, 5–19. This editorial provides a solid introduction to the four main approaches which are emerging within health psychology (clinical, public, community and critical). It compares and contrasts the approaches and positions them in a broader framework to assist in our understandings of health, health systems and social care.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murray, M., Nelson, G., Poland, B., Maticka-Tyndale, E. & Ferris, L. (2004). Assumptions and values of community health psychology. Journal of Health Psychology, 9, 323–33. In this article Murray and colleagues provide a good introduction to community health psychology, outlining how it developed and how it is linked to community psychology more generally. As the title suggests, it outlines the values of this approach, and also provides a clear account of the potential contributions this approach to health psychology could make to changing health inequalities and social injustice.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Prilleltensky, I., & Prilleltensky, O. (2003). Towards a critical health psychology practice. Journal of Health Psychology, 8, 197–210. This is one of the few articles which has focused on critical health psychology as a specific approach within health psychology. It is a useful and informative introduction. The authors use a critical perspective to review the field of health psychology and outline what a critical health psychology approach entails in terms of values, assumptions and practices.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

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