Epidemiology is the tracking of the changing patterns of illness, including the frequency, distribution and causes of illness in a population. Each week, the CDC issues the MMWR – The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Morbidity is the number of cases of a particular disease. Mortality refers to the number of deaths due to a particular cause. Tracking these types of statistics helps health psychologists examine the physical and social environment to help determine the cause of, and prevent/reduce, illness.
Major contributors to death in the United States*
- Tobacco (400,000)
- Diet and activity patterns (300,000)
- Alcohol (100,000)
- Microbial agents (90,000)
- Toxic agents (60,000)
- Firearms (35,000)
- Sexual behavior (30,000)
- Motor vehicles (25,000)
- Illicit drug use (20,000)
* stats from 2000
Note that most of these are behavior-related issues that could/should be changed. Because these are linked to decision-making, the Health Psychologist plays an important role in promoting change. They study why people make poor health decisions, or fail to follow-through when it comes to executing healthy lifestyle changes.
More Interesting Health Statistics
- Americans spend over $1.7 TRILLION annually on healthcare services – more than other developed counties.
- The healthcare industry is the largest service sector in the U.S.
- From 2007 – 2009, the healthcare industry added 428,000 jobs.