Healthy psychology is a specialization within the field of psychology devoted to the scientific study of:
- How people can stay healthy
- Why people become ill
- How people respond when they are ill
Health psychology also considers the broader perspectives of the healthcare system. Based upon the information and understanding gained through their studies, health psychologists may then go on to develop interventions that promote better health.
A more formal definition might say that health psychology is focused on:
- Health promotion and maintenance
- The etiology (origins and causes) and correlates of health, illness and dysfunction
- The healthcare system and the formulation of health policy
Health psychology also includes the study of broader perspectives of the healthcare system:
- Enhancement of health
- Prevention and treatment of illness
- Evaluation and modification of health policies that influence healthcare
Health psychologist may be involved in tasks like developing educational interventions for the public, formally evaluting programs to improve them and promote better health behaviors, administering health agencies, charting progress of particular diseases, and monitoring health threats in the workplace.
- Cognitive – including “self-efficacy” – must have enough confidence to carryout and complete goals. Whether people are optimistic or pessimistic impact health.
- Clinical – Disorders like depression and anxiety are generally thought of as a mental health issue, but they greatly impact physical health.
It is one of the youngest areas of psychology, and was recognized in 1978 as an independent division of the American Psychological Association. The first Health Psychology textbook was published in 1982. Slowly but surely, health psychology has been gaining greater acceptance within the medical community. Once reserved for “problem patients,” health psychologists are often now part of an integrated treatment program.
Why is health psychology gaining in popularity?
- Demonstrated contributions to health, including the development of successful behavioral interventions to help patients manage pain and treatment side effects. Health psychology has also shown success in modifying risk behaviors, which impacts disease incidence.
- Methodological contributions, including research methodology and statistical analysis.