Health psychology

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  • What is health psychology?
  • Application of psychological principles in understanding how poeple
  • get ill
  • stay ill
  • respond to being ill
  • Aims to understand biolsocial factors involved in:
  • illness prevention
  • causes of illness
  • maintenance of health
  • improving health care systemsWhat is stress?


  •  "a general body response to initailly threatening external or internal demands - involves the mobilisation of physiological and psychological resourcesto deal with them"
  • "Imbalance between demands on the body and the capacity of the body to cope with them".

The persistance of stress (chronic stress) can have repercussions on the organs and systems e.g immune systems

There is lots of focus on its link with helath

what are the Types of stress? (SEYLE 1975)


  • Good stress
  • increases arousal to an optimal level
  • with increases performance
  • makes people happy/ motivated



  • negative stress
  • impedes performance
  • leads to physiological problems

which one you experience depends on the YERKES DODSON LAW (1908)


  • Used electric shocks on rats to motivate them to complete a maze
  • if elecric shocks became to strong the rats would pnaic and scurry in random directions
  • so basically increasing stress and arousal levels can help improve attention and motivation on the task but only up to a certain point


  • stress can produce physiological changes that may lead to the development of illness e.g. immunosupression

Research into the direct route:


  • Tested blood of first yr medical students 1 month before final exam & day of final exa
  • also filled out questionaire examing lifestyle
  • looked at loucyte activity in blood (natural killer cells responsible for fighting virus),
  • greatly reduced levls day of exam
  • stress is associated with reduced immune function
  • poeple who scored high for lonliness and stressful life situations had even weaker levels


  • Compared wond helaing rate of women caring for alzheimer relative and contorl goup (no alzhiemer relative)
  • on average high stress group took 9 days longer for wounds to heal
  • this is because they were producing less interlukin b (an immune function that regulates cell growth)


  • immune system = a lot weaker after wives had died
  • stress of bereavement was greater

RILEY 1981

  • Implanted cancer cells in mice
  • exposed them to stress - 10 mins on a rotating table every hour for ten days
  • developed tumors
  • a control group with no stress did not
  • stress reduces lymphocytes (white blood celss used to fight infection)

COHEN ET AL 1993/ 1998

  • Paticipants given nasal drops containing cold virus
  • measured stress by number of life chnages recently experinced and a questionaire to measure how out of control they felt
  • the more out of control and more life chnages were much more likley to develop the cold


  • Peoples behvaioural responses to stress predispose them to illness
  • excercise less
  • smoking
  • drinking
  • can produce symptoms of anxiety and insominia
  • This can often depend on personality

Research into indirect route


  • "poeple who are stressed tend to…


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