Health Psychology Research

Health Psychology Research

The American Psychological Association designated 2001 through 2010 as the Decade of Behavior. Lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, inactivity, a high-fat diet, and high-stress careers have been recognized for many years now as key contributors to the ailments for which people commonly seek medical care. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lifestyle factors contribute strongly to the top 10 causes of death in the United States. Their role, in fact, is greater than that of genetic, biological, or environmental factors.

Years ago, health psychology was a new, promising field of inquiry. Today, it has grown dramatically, fulfilling some of its early promise and opening creative new lines of investigation that will fuel its further growth. In this short time, we have learned a great deal. We have learned that behavior is a basic and influential component of health and that it can make disease more or less likely. Diet and drug use, exercise, stress, and other behaviors have demonstrable effects on a range of physiological systems and health outcomes. Disease processes, such as those involved in cardiovascular disorders and hypertension, are clearly tied to behavior and to emotional experiences. How people behave when they are ill or whether they seek medical attention for symptoms also determines the eventual costs of a disease or the severity of its impact. From basic research and intervention to contributions to public policy, health psychology has become an important discipline within and outside the field of psychology.

Health psychology, here at UTA, is an exciting area of study, in part because it considers so many levels of influence and because the relationships it studies are inherently interesting and important. It shares the excitement of basic discoveries with more basic social, cognitive, and physiological fields of psychology. Effective applications of research to problems of health and well-being, including successful intervention with patients, are also thrilling and rewarding aspects of this field. Health psychology is exciting because it deals with very important outcomes, literally with life and death, and because it has uniquely important contributions to make to our understanding of behavior, of health, and of disease. It has become one of the most active areas within psychology and has clearly defined roles for psychologists in the health care arena. At a time when opportunities seem to be shrinking all around us, the opportunities in health psychology continue to grow. The vibrancy of our field, its breadth, rigor, and importance, are among the reasons for its dramatic growth and continued success.

Psychologists have always been concerned with issues of illness and health. Historically, they generally limited themselves to mental health settings and issues such as psychotherapy, mental retardation, and schizophrenia. This focus has changed during the past twenty years, with an increased involvement in all areas of health and illness, not just mental health. Integrating research and theory from clinical psychology, social psychology, biopsychology, experimental psychology, and the like, health psychology has expanded and broadened its scope.

Assessment and Management of Chronic Disease

Assessment and Management of Chronic Pain

Biobehavioral Factors and Cancer

Biopsychosocial Mechanisms in Health and Illness

Comorbity of Mental and Physical Health Disorders

Coping with Illness