Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
There are many reasons why we feel that a book like this is overdue. We have both been teaching health psychology and searching for a text that takes a more critical approach to notions of health and illness, without success. Although there are many health psychology texts available, and more keep appearing, none seems to us to be suitable for the ways in which we want to approach health psychology, either as researchers or as teachers. Existing health psychology texts do not reflect the changes in this field, where increasingly a variety of methods and approaches, qualitative and critical, are being employed to examine health and illness issues from a psychological perspective. For some years we have felt dissatisfied with the ways in which health psychology conducts its research and promulgates its findings. We are critical of the way it unreflexively continues the traditions of mainstream psychology, assuming that psychological factors have a real existence, that they can be meaningfully and accurately measured, that statistical findings have meaning by virtue of their significance levels and that findings (almost) have the status of general laws. We are critical of the lack of consideration in health psychology of the social context within which health and illness are experienced and understood. We are critical of the way in which health psychology all too readily adopts the premises and assumptions of biomedicine, and the ways in which its findings promote biomedical understandings, albeit in the guise of a ‘biopsychosocial’ approach, a vague rhetorical entity with many meanings.