What Is Health Psychology?

Health psychology uses scientific research methods to study the impact of social, behavioral and psychological factors on physical health. Read on to learn more about this field. Schools offering Health Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of Health Psychology

According the American Psychological Association, health psychology is the application of research methods and knowledge from the broader field of psychology to the study of physical health. The current view in the health community is that health and illness are not caused by biological factors alone but instead are produced by a combination of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors. Health psychologists seek to determine the nature of the relationship between health and these factors.

Important Facts About Psychologists

Median Salary (2014) $70,700
Required Education Doctoral or specialist degree
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 19% growth
Work Environment Private practice offices, clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, mental health facilities

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Health Psychology Research

An important aspect of health psychology research involves investigating the relationships between specific personality traits and healthy or unhealthy lifestyle choices. Health psychology researchers also explore the ways in which socioeconomic factors like ethnicity and income levels influence health. By educating the public about how mental health and lifestyle choices can influence physical health, health psychologists aim to improve overall individual and public health.

Health Psychology as Part of Patient Treatment

Health psychologists use the tools of psychology to improve patient care in many ways. For instance, health psychologists teach physicians methods to communicate more effectively with their patients, which reduces patients' stress and improves their adherence to medical advice. Health psychologists also try to limit patients' pain and suffering by delivering traditional psychological counseling and by studying psychologically based pain, such as phantom limb syndrome. Health psychologists work with terminally ill patients to improve their quality of life as well.

Health Psychology and Public Health Education

Health psychologists also undertake public health campaigns to educate the public about health threats, like alcohol, tobacco and obesity, and to change attitudes toward specific health problems like HIV-AIDS. A prominent example of health psychology at work is anti-smoking campaigns. The goal of these campaigns is not only to educate the public about the dangers of smoking, but also to change social attitudes about the desirability of smoking. By changing public perceptions about health issues, health psychologists are able to impact the health of society overall.

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