At about the same time that behavioral medicine was given life, a new discipline called behavioral health began to emerge. Behavioral health emphasizes the enhancement of health and the prevention of disease in healthy people rather than the diagnosis and treatment of disorders in sick people.
Behavioral health includes such concerns as injury prevention, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, diet, and exercise. Behavioral health has not continued to develop as a strong, formal discipline, and its goals have largely been incorporated by a new field called health psychology, the branch of psychology that concerns individual behaviors and lifestyles affecting a person’s physical health.
Health psychology includes psychology’s contributions to the enhancement of health, the prevention and treatment of disease, the identification of health risk factors, the improvement of the health care system, and the shaping of public opinion with regard to health. More specifically, it involves the application of psychological principles to such physical health areas as lowering high blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, managing stress, alleviating pain, stopping smoking, and moderating other risky behaviors, as well as encouraging regular exercise, medical and dental checkups, and safer behaviors.
In addition, health psychology helps identify conditions that affect health, diagnose and treat certain chronic diseases, and modify the behavioral factors involved in physiological and psychological rehabilitation. As such, health psychology interacts with both biology and sociology to produce health- and disease-related outcomes. Note that neither psychology nor sociology contribute directly to outcomes; only biological factors contribute directly to physical health and disease.