Health Psychology: definition and areas of application

Health Psychology: definition and areas of application

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Health is defined as the state of well-being both physical, mental and social. Based on this conception, health is an area that encompasses several disciplines that adopt as the object of study some of these previously proposed approaches. Taking this into account the mental sphere is about deciphering through professionals in areas such as:neurology, neuropsychology, psychiatry and psychology; The latter is which we will talk about this time.

Health psychology, sometimes tends to be little known even by the psychologists themselves, but once exercised in the healthcare field it is very useful and beneficial when it comes to covering interdisciplinary or exclusively mental problems in patients that are in a health entity. Next we will talk a little more about its definition and fields of application to be able to exercise that branch of Psychology with the responsibility that implies.

Definition of Health Psychology

It is that branch of Psychology in charge of the area of ​​health, that is, the whole group of emotional, cognitive and behavioral factors that are related to the onset, maintenance or recovery in cases of illness; starting from a main objective the conservation of health in the individual.

In addition to this, another of the functions of a Health Psychologist is the design of an action plan that seeks the health promotion, prevent disease, intervene during rehabilitation of people in a state of illness, as well as optimize health systems and services and participate in the formulation of public policies on issues associated with mental health.

Finally, it should be noted that Health Psychology covers the study of factors such as: health education, healthy vs. risky behaviors, psychological factors associated with the disease, stress (coping), among others. All this with the sole purpose of promote the quality of life both individually and community level.

Fields of application

At a general level we can classify the fields of application of Health Psychology into 4 groups: promotion, prevention, evaluation - treatment - rehabilitation and analysis (or improvement) of the system.

When a psychology professional practices in promotional activities, this refers to informing and educating patients on relevant health issues., as for example: sexual and reproductive health, vaccines, among others. In addition to this seeks to strengthen and / or strengthen protective factors (that is, everything that allows a person to get sick), along with the generation of healthy lifestyles, participation in environmental health and citizen policies.

According to the prevention as the name implies, the idea is to identify those factors that can produce a health problem, but that can be avoided; Some of these can be: sedentary lifestyle, cigarette consumption, emotional problems, etc. All this is done through: control of attitudinal, motivational and emotional variables; modify risk behaviors and / or unhealthy environmental conditions, early detection of problems and prevention of relapses.

The third scope of this branch is the evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of specific disorders such as cardiovascular, endocrine, food, cancer, neuromuscular, renal diseases, among others. Embracing at level general any health condition of a chronic and / or terminal nature, that is to say all that illness that requires a permanent management during the rest of his life or that pathological condition that at some moment can produce to the death of the person.

Finally, the fourth scope of application of Health Psychology is the analysis and improvement of the health care system, in which the professional looks after analyzing the care that is carried out at the level of the health sector, studies what can be improved, educates the users in the proper use of the entity's health system and trains the assistance, administrative and other professionals in certain specific skills that allow the user to feel satisfied with the service, for example humanization in health services.

In conclusion…

Health psychology is a branch of psychology that has a huge impact on the service provision of a health entity, from the diagnosis of the patient to its treatment and subsequent recovery and / or follow-up. Thus the hospitals or clinics that have this figure, offer much more comprehensive care in the process of health maintenance and disease prevention.


(1) (2019). Health according to WHO. Extracted from: //

(2) COLPSIC Colombian College of Psychologists (2019). Health Psychology Field. Extracted from: //