Scientific knowledge and social practice in health psychology: A discipline at the crossroads

Helena Sęk, Łukasz Dominik Kaczmarek, Michał Ziarko


Health psychology was founded as a response to social needs for better understanding and regulation of psychological aspects of biological, mental, and social well-being. Despite initial enthusiasm and optimism in its early days, three decades of development yielded results that are disappointing to many scholars in terms of health psychology practical meaning. Thus, in this paper we review several challenges for health psychology. We believe that health psychology might benefit from revival of aims and values that distinguished the discipline at its onset such as bio-psycho-social perspective that has been narrowed to somatic illness in recent days. Second, more integration is needed in theory and terminology to eliminate overlapping concepts labeled with different names. Furthermore, social practice would benefit from greater responsiveness of health psychologists to new technologies. Finally, health psychology is likely to derive benefits from more general well-established perspectives on diffusion of innovation in social practice. We conclude that health psychology as a practice-related scientific discipline is likely to regain its initial momentum once these problems are solved and novel areas of scientific exploration are identified.


health psychology; social practice; innovation; implementation

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