For years, we’ve known about the dangers of smoking, and that we should eat less and move more. But in the end, what motivates us to put down the doughnut and hit the running trail or carefully follow a doctor’s instructions about medications and follow-up visits?
Health psychology explores those motivations in the pursuit of getting people to embrace health promotion and illness prevention. This specialty area examines how biological, social and psychological factors influence the choices we make about our health.
Health psychologists study the factors that allow people to be healthy, recover from an illness or cope with a chronic condition. They are experts in the intersection of health and behavior and are in demand as a part of integrated health care delivery teams — working with other doctors to provide whole-person health care.
The path to wellness is complex, and health psychologists know this. That is why they consider all the factors in a person’s life to get at what’s really driving certain behaviors.
Ever heard of emotional eating? Or psychosomatic illnesses? Linking people’s emotions to their behavior and its consequences is a key component of their work.
Health psychologists apply their expertise in many settings, including private practices, hospitals and primary care programs, universities, corporations, government agencies and specialty practices, such as oncology, pain management, rehabilitation and smoking cessation.
Helping people make choices that have a positive impact on their health — and the well-being of their families, the workforce and their communities is at the heart of this dynamic field.
Health psychologists use psychology to explore the connection between physical health and behavior change. The application of their research promotes wellness and healthy living.
Resources to help you pursue a career in psychology
A degree in psychology can lead to a fulfilling career that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Find out what it takes to become a health psychologist
Health psychology focuses on how biological, social and psychological factors influence health and illness. Health psychologists study how patients handle illness, why some people don’t follow medical advice and the most effective ways to control pain or change poor health habits. They also develop health care strategies that foster emotional and physical well-being.