Posted: February 26th, 2023

Applying Social Psychology to Health

This week, the information presented in the readings and articles speak on the variety of factors that often influence the health behavior of people. Further explaining this, several theories and models (as they relate to shaping health outcomes) are introduced.  Finally, the concepts of medicalization and demedicalization were introduced. Please answer 1 of the the first 2 questions, and then do question 3.

1. The reading on Autism Spectrum Disorder and the DSM-5 by Barker and Galardi discusses the demedicalization of certain behaviors, that will no longer be considered under the autism diagnosis.  Additionally, the PEW data point to a demedicalization (sort of) of marijuana, in that society is more likely to accept it as a harmless drug. Can you think of any other behaviors or conditions that could be demedicalized?  If so, what would be some of the contested issues, and who would the stakeholders be? 

2. Please choose one model or theory from the three discussed in the ASP text and explain how it could be applied to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Map out how you would use the theory to promote health.

3. Choose a health behavior of your own and then apply one of the 3 theories from ASP text.  Each person try to do either a new health behavior or different theory.  For instance, I might choose drinking 8 glasses of water a day, and would then go through the 5 stages of change. Be original with your example.

Reading 1:

Reading 2:

Chapter 8

Applying Social Psychology to Health

This slide deck will review various models and theoretical frameworks that help us understand the dynamics of health behavior change, as well as the effects of social support on health.

The Biopsychosocial Model
According to Engel, the biopsychosocial model suggests that health is determined by biological, psychological, and social factors (p. 169 ASP).

Understanding illness will always involve biology
This model also emphasizes the psychological and social effects on health.

Health Belief Model

Beliefs about our likelihood of becoming ill and the way we perceive certain health behaviors to be effective in preventing illness are considered cognitive factors.

considers how cognitive factors help predict health-protective behaviors
How we approach adopting health behaviors are shaped by various components.
General health values
Perceived susceptibility to illness
Perceived vulnerability of illness
Expectation of treatment success
Perceived barriers and benefits
Cues to action

The health belief model

General health values
Assumes we have an existing interest in our health and care about maintaining good health.

Perceived susceptibility to illness
The way we perceive health threats is determined by
Our general understanding of a disease or condition
Specific knowledge of how the condition relates to us personally.
Ex: If you are smoker with high blood pressure and high cholesterol and you also know that smoking, hypertension, and high cholesterol are all risk factors associated with coronary heart disease, you may perceive that you are more personally vulnerable to the threat of heart disease.

Health Belief Model (cont’d)

Perceived severity of illness
If simply knowing that we are vulnerable to a disease or condition is not enough, the severity of the problem and its consequences will affect our need to to take action.
Ex: Family history of breast cancer vulnerability to breast cancer choosing to undergo routine screenings

Similarly, if we perceive the consequences to be minimal, we may choose not to take action.
Health Belief Model (cont’d)

Expectation of treatment success
If we choose to change our behavior, we may question if the change will have a significant effect on preventing or reducing the severity the health threat.
Choosing not to act because we do not think these actions will make a difference.
Ex: Feeling less motivated or obligated to eat well or exercise regularly because we perceive the likelihood of getting a disease to be solely dependent on genetic predisposition.

Health Belief Model (cont’d)

Health Belief Model (cont’d)
Self-efficacy (Bandura)
Relates to our perception of whether or not we a capable of carrying out a behavior
Emphasis on feeling confident/capable to change health habits

Perceived barriers and benefits
Weighing the costs and benefits of changing one’s health behaviors.
Ex: The benefits of regular exercise outweigh the costs of having to overcome barriers such as time constrains health
Health Campaigns: Alternate View
Emphasizing the low cost of behavior changes in comparison to the costs (consequences) of a disease or condition.

Cues to Action
Events or messages that prompt health behavior changes
E.g. receiving dental checkup reminders in the mail
Health Belief Model (cont’d)

Theory of Planned Behavior
A person’s intentions are the best predictor of a person’s behavior.
To adopt healthier behaviors, they must change their behavioral intentions.
Intentions influenced by:
Attitudes toward behavior
Subjective norms about the behavior
Perceived behavioral control

Theory of Planned Behavior
From Figure 8.4 ASP

People tend to be in different stages of “readiness” when setting out to change certain health behaviors or habits.
5 stages
Stages of Change Model

Figure 8.5 ASP

No intention of changing:
Individual does not find behavior to be problematic
Has decided against changing behavior

Take serious consideration of changing behavior
Intend to make change within 6 months
BUT, often stay in this stage for a long time; no follow through

Stages of Change Model (cont’d)

Intend to make change in the next month
Actively make efforts to initiate change

Successfully modifying behavior

Completed 6 months of behavior change
Can remain in this stage for a long time; relapse from addiction can occur
Stages of Change Model (cont’d)

Advantages of Stages of Change Model
Conceptualization of actual, and often complex, processes people go through and acknowledges individuality
Provides a more optimistic view of relapse; “not all is lost”
Serves as a guide when tailoring health interventions for those in different stages
What works for one individual may not be the best for another.
To Sum…

Social Support
The transactional model of stress, (Lazarus and Folkman) suggests that the experience of stress results from ongoing interactions and encounters between people and the environment (p. 183 ASP).

Not all of these interactions will evoke stress
Those events/interactions that do induce stress are called stressors.
The judgment that leads to how we choose to respond to those stressors is called an appraisal.

Effects of stressful circumstances can be alleviated by social support, which we receive from other people.

Components of social support:
Size of our social network – how many or few people are we connected to for support
Quality – do we feel comfortable seeking support from those in our network

Social Support (cont’d)

Functions and Forms of Social Support
Emotional: love, empathy, security.
Esteem: Confirmation or validation from others that, despite our faults, we are valued for our personal qualities
Instrumental (tangible): Practical help – favors, active assistance, giving a ride
Informational: Advice, feedback, or other communicated messages from others. Helpful when faced with unfamiliar or or difficult situations.
Network: Feelings of membership or companionship from a group that share our interests.
Social Support (cont’d)

Social Support and Health
Influence on another’s health behavior?
Encouragement to adopt healthier behaviors
Distract from or discourage temptation towards poor health behaviors
Make suggestions about seeking help
Being around others who can provide effective support reduces the likelihood that an individual makes stressful appraisals about potentially stressful experiences.
Reducing severity of the stress as a health threat – 2 ways
Problem-focused efforts: change the stressor
Emotion-focused: controlling emotions to minimize distress

Social Support (cont’d)













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