In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Health Psychology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Handbooks
  • Journals
  • Stress
  • Coping
  • Models of Behavior Change
  • Health Behaviors
  • Pain
  • Chronic and Terminal Illnesses
  • Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease
  • Psychoneuroimmunology

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Psychology Health Psychology
Regan Gurung
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0031


Health psychology is an interdisciplinary subspecialty of psychology dedicated to promoting and maintaining health and preventing and treating illness. Franz Alexander and Helen Flanders Dunbar together established the first formal gathering of individuals interested in studying the influences of the mind on health in the 1920s. This movement within the mainstream medical establishment was coined psychosomatic medicine and grew into the American Psychosomatic Society (APS). The new field of psychosomatic medicine had many supporters, which led to the formation of the first society specifically dedicated to the study of mind and body connections. Another movement within the field of medicine, called behavioral medicine, looks at nonbiological influences on health. The Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM), a multidisciplinary, nonprofit organization founded in 1978, is dedicated to studying the influences of behavior on health and well-being. Unlike SBM and APS, whose members are overwhelmingly physicians, the American Psychological Association’s Division of Health Psychology (Division 38) is a group specifically for psychologists and came into being in the mid-1970s. Health psychologists pay close attention to the way that thoughts, feelings, behavior, and biological processes all interact with each other to influence health and illness. In many ways health psychology is greater than a subfield within the discipline of psychology, as it is built on theoretical ideas and research findings from many other areas in psychology. For example, many of the ways used to understand why we get stressed and how we cope come from social and personality psychology. The field of health psychology can be divided into three broad natural segments: stress and coping, health behaviors, and issues in health care. The first section of this article introduces General Overviews, Textbooks, and reference works relating to health psychology. Attention is also paid to Journals that publish articles presenting novel methods, as well as controversies. The bibliography’s remaining sections examine different topics in health psychology.

General Overviews

Health psychology has many different areas of focus and three major organizations that support researchers in the field. Division 38 of the American Psychological Association provides the home for psychologists who are trained as health psychologists or who practice health psychology. Two other major organizations whose members also practice health psychology are the American Psychosomatic Society and the Society of Behavioral Medicine. The latter two are perhaps the most diverse in terms of the disciplines from which their members hail. The unique feature of health psychology is its focus on biological, psychological, and societal factors and Baum and Posluszny 1999 and Suls and Rothman 2004 provide a good overview of how this focus works. Matarazzo 1980 and Taylor 1990 provide concise histories of the field of health psychology.

  • American Psychosomatic Society.

    The educational resources link has a number of interesting reports, “white papers,” and PowerPoint presentations.

  • Baum, Andrew, and Donna M. Posluszny. 1999. Health psychology: Mapping biobehavioral contributions to health and illness. Annual Review of Psychology 50: 137–163.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.50.1.137

    One of the first articles in health psychology to clearly state the utility of using a biobehavioral model to understand health that focuses on prevention in contrast to the biomedical model focusing more on cure.

  • Division 38: Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

    See the education and training page for information on careers and the home page for current activity in the field.

  • Matarazzo, Joseph D. 1980. Behavioral health and behavioral medicine: Frontiers for a new health psychology. American Psychologist 35.9: 807–817.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.35.9.807

    This is a classic in health psychology that first introduces the world (as it were) to the new area of health psychology. Division 38 of APA was formed in the mid-1970s, and this article in the flagship journal was the first to clearly enunciate what this new field was all about.

  • Society of Behavioral Medicine.

    Another great education, training, and career development link with a frequently updated listing of news and research findings.

  • Suls, Jerry, and Alex Rothman. 2004. Evolution of the biopsychosocial model: Prospects and challenges for health psychology. Health Psychology 23.2: 119–126.

    DOI: 10.1037/0278-6133.23.2.119

    The biopsychosocial model is what sets health psychology apart from the traditional Western medicine approach to health, and this article does a wonderful job of tracing the evolution of this model, highlighting evidence of its utility.

  • Taylor, Shelley E. 1990. Health psychology: The science and the field. American Psychologist 45.1: 40–50.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.45.1.40

    Shelley Taylor is one of the founding members of the field of health psychology, and her article presents a big picture view of the field at the twenty-year mark since its inception.

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