Evaluate what psychologists have found out about lifestyles

Essay by Thanatos April 2004

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Psychologists have found that there are many factors which affect a persons health. Some psychologists claim that poverty (Carroll et el), Type A personality (Friedman and Rosenman), Religiosity (Terman) and other lifestyle factors greatly influence health. Aswell as this, further issues which need to be considered are gender, development and culture.

The first issue concerns the assumptions made by the Health models. Such things as the Health Belief Model by Rosenstock 1966 and Locus of Control (Rotter 1960) highlight this issue. Since the HBM claims to be able to predict certain behaviour based on a series of self-assessments, it can never fully be accurate because it tends to see humans as rational processors of information, when in reality we are much more complicated, emotional and irrational. Kahneman has shown that we are often unable to process or have access to all information that is available to us and therefore we use heuristic devises (short cuts) to arrive at decisions.

The health Locus of control model tends to see people as being either 'external' or 'internal'. However perhaps some people are somewhere in the middle of the scale, and also it can be difficult to define behaviours as internal or external.

The second issue concerns the validity of the models and studies relating to health. Weinstein (1983) claimed that unrealistic optimism explained why people continue to practice unhealthy behaviours. He argues that people estimate their level of risk of getting ill as low and unrealistic. However in reality, people may practice unhealthy behaviours because of such things as peer pressure, e.g. Boys youth smoking culture, especially with working class teenagers. Carroll et al claimed that poverty was a key factor which had a considerable negative effect on health. However poverty may be a key factor, bad health could be due to...