The multifactorial model in health psychology is a leading paradigm that recognizes the multi-faceted nature of illnesses. It is not a clear-cut, simple case that a disease is caused by a singular factor. The fact is that decades if not over a century of modern research has led to the recognition that a host of factors, as well as their interactions, function in illness and health determination (Nevid & Rathus, p. 126).
These varied factors that the multifactorial model indicates to be the range of possible influences or causes of diseases cover the psychological, sociocultural, environmental, and stressors. This broad range of factors, which include both those within and without one's control, determine an individual's health and his/her level of susceptibility to health problems (Nevid & Rathus, p. 127).
Psychological or personality and behavior factors figure in quite a large number of health problems. Such is seen in the large number of preventable deaths that occur yearly in the United States. For one, smoking leads to way over 400,000 annual deaths from cancer, diseases of the heart and lungs, and stroke. Some 300,000 year deaths stroke, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes can actually be prevented with good diet and proper exercise. Immunizations, moderation or control of alcohol drinking, and abstinence or safe sex practices could also help prevent deaths from infectious diseases, vehicular and other accidents/injuries, and sexually transmitted diseases, respectively (Nevid & Rathus, p. 128). It should be well noted that depression and other negative psychological states could actually render an impaired immune system functioning (Nevid & Rathus, p. 126). The reason for this is that, contrary to popular thinking, the mental and the physical are not entirely separate domains but, rather intertwined (Nevid & Rathus, p. 131).
Biological factors include age, gender, genetics, as well as injuries, exposure to pathogens and inoculations. One's genetic make-up, while beyond an individual's capacity to be altered, tend to make certain people falsely assume that their health is doomed by, say, a family history of diabetes. Having a family history of a disease can make some people think fatalistically that nothing they do can improve their chances of overcoming or escaping a disease. Dr. Robert N. Hoover of the National Cancer Institute, however, says that many cases of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and others merely give rise to predispositions, not really certainties (Nevid & Rathus, p. 126).
Environmental factors include pollution, water quality, hygiene from solid waster treatment and sanitation, natural disasters, and even global warming and depletion of the ozone layer. Personal stressors cover a wide range of situations such as daily hassles at home, co-workers, time pressure, and financial insecurity; frustrations; major life changes; workplace situation; and isolation or rejection by peers (Nevid & Rathus, p. 127).
Thus, in the diagnosis of illnesses, the multifactorial model considers the possible roles played by psychological, biological, environmental/cultural factors, along with their interactions (Nevid & Rathus, p. 126). In the United States, the application of the psychological health model can be seen in studies that attempt to explain the phenomenon of black Americans seemingly suffering from health problems more compared to the European Americans.
The ethnicity consideration has led to studies showing that African-Americans may indeed be genetically predisposed to hypertension but, at the same time, poor diet, stress and smoking contribute to the development of the disease. Such consideration has also led to findings that the tendency of Afro-Americans to have lower access level to quality health care help explain, for instance, why they are less prone to receive surgeries for hip and knee replacements (Nevid & Rathus, p. 128).
Use of Psychology in Understanding Illnesses...
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