Health psychology looks at the relationship between behaviour, social context and health, for example:
- How mothers make decisions about infant breastfeeding
- Peer and other influences on young people’s sexual behaviour
- What influences our eating habits
- How to increase levels of physical activity
Health psychology has been used in primary prevention and health promotion – to keep the population healthy and prevent illnesses related to behavioural factors, such as obesity, smoking, alcohol and drug use. Health psychology is also applied to understanding what it is like to be ill, and how people with long term conditions can be supported to self manage more effectively. Health psychology can also help improve the design and delivery of healthcare, making it more patient-centred, increasing patient satisfaction, and reducing the risk of human errors that harm patients and their families.
Health psychologists work in diverse fields including, for example, public health, smoking cessation, addiction services, cardiac rehabilitation, and children’s cancer care. They may design therapeutic interventions, or deliver them in one to one or group settings. Some health psychologists work in research, training or consultancy, some in the NHS and others in private practice. Many health psychologists combine these roles.