Health Psychology: The Impact of Psychological Factors

How psychological factors impact dealing with health, behavior, and chronic illness

Human overall health and the attitudes toward it are driven by a multitude of factors, among which the psychological ones play a significant role. While human tendency to inherit particular diseases or health particularities is validated by biological factors, psychological factors include lifestyle choices, behavioral patterns, and levels of stress (Bray et al., 2018). Therefore, the application of psychological knowledge and theories to the identification, conceptualization, and addressing of physical diseases provides multiple opportunities for understanding and managing illness.

Psychological factors might have a two-fold impact on health behavior, and chronic illness. Firstly, they might have a reinforcing effect which might be manifested through negative lifestyle choices, multiple stressors, and harmful habits that trigger adverse outcomes for health and might deteriorate coping with illnesses. For example, much stress and body dissatisfaction are common triggers of eating disorders, which vividly illustrates how psychological factors predetermine health issues (Bray et al., 2018).

Secondly, psychological factors have a positive effect on health and health-related behavior, which might be manifested through lifestyle changes or shaping belief systems that promote healthy existence and effective pain management. For example, a person suffering from obesity and its complications might improve their health condition by altering his or her attitude to dieting and exercising, engage in behavior control practices (Bray et al., 2018). Thus, psychological factors are inherently connected with health and illness.

The factors that researchers and participants have contributed to the evolution of managing chronic illness and pain

Throughout the research in the sphere of health psychology, multiple factors have been introduced to the field to facilitate the opportunities for effective pain management and chronic illness management. According to Weinrib et al. (2017), psychological risk factors include anxiety, depressive symptoms, “pain catastrophizing, and general psychological distress” (p. 171). However, such protective factors as “high dispositional optimism, high positive affect, and low emotional distress” tend to minimize the harmful effects of pain, minimize chronic pain, and endure recovery in patients (Weinrib et al., 2017, p. 171). Therefore, to manage chronic illness and pain, practices aimed at the improvement of positive outlook and low stress levels should be applied.

Why coping skills and techniques will continue to evolve

The overall development of health care and science drives positive changes in the approaches to pain management. Despite significant advancements in the area of anesthesiology, the issue of chronic pain management remains unresolved, which permanently requires innovative solutions and theoretical improvements (Weinrib et al., 2017). The need and active search for psychological means of coping with pain will drive the continuous evolution of coping skills and techniques.

Moreover, the noticeable attention of the scientific and professional communities to the potential effectiveness of health psychology generates a number of new theories that explore the benefits of psychology in pain management (Peters & Crutzen, 2017). Thus, the progress of health psychology is driven by the abundance of latest findings, the need for new approaches to chronic pain-coping techniques, and the effectiveness of applied practices.

In particular, the essential role of evidence-based practice in health care predetermines multi-disciplinary approaches to pain management. The existence of multiple psychological theories allows for health psychology’s evolution due to the potential of combining these theories into an inte3grative multi-disciplinary framework. According to Peters and Crutzen (2017), “all environmental (e.g., social or physical) and genetic influences on behavior eventually operate through (and manifest as) psychological variables” (p. 104). Such complexity of factor connectivity provides a basis for generating new coping techniques to cope with chronic illness and pain.

The evolution of Health Psychology as it relates to understanding, managing and coping with chronic pain and illness and on the values and limitations for humanity

The investigation of health psychology evolution provides a solid knowledge background for understanding how illnesses occur, what patterns of behavior might be risk or protective factors, and how psychological determinants might help health care. With the ability to analyze psychological factors and interpret them in the context of a particular case and against theoretical knowledge, professionals might significantly enhance their capability of effective treatment and recovery (Weinrib et al., 2017). For example, while medications have been long believed to have the most effective impact on pain management, their failure to address chronic pain issues and the behavioral triggers contributing to particular physical disorders encourages psychological research.

The limitations of health psychology are related to the incomplete application of practices in health care settings due to their complexity and fluidity. Indeed, the integration of pain management techniques is highly individual and depends on every particular case, which is why it is challenging to generate a universal practice. However, the advancement of the theoretical and practical approaches to interpreting behavior in relation to health outcomes provides a potential for illness management and disease prevention.

Indeed, the most significant value of the evolution of health psychology is its contribution to the understanding of the direct dependence of health outcomes of behavior, lifestyle, and psychological environment. On the one hand, it is possible to predict one’s health outcomes depending on his or her behavior, considering lifestyle choices. On the other hand, one might apply this knowledge to correct the behavior in order to mitigate risk factors, eliminate the probability of diseases, or develop skills for pain management.


Bray, I., Slater, A., Lewis-Smith, H., Bird, E., & Sabey, A. (2018). Promoting positive body image and tackling overweight/obesity in children and adolescents: A combined health psychology and public health approach. Preventive Medicine, 116, 219-221.

Peters, G. J. Y., & Crutzen, R. (2017). Pragmatic nihilism: How a Theory of Nothing can help health psychology progress. Health Psychology Review, 11(2), 103-121.

Weinrib, A. Z., Azam, M. A., Birnie, K. A., Burns, L. C., Clarke, H., & Katz, J. (2017). The psychology of chronic post-surgical pain: New frontiers in risk factor identification, prevention and management. British Journal of Pain, 11(4), 169-177.

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PsychologyWriting. "Health Psychology: The Impact of Psychological Factors." July 25, 2023.