Health Psychology: Theory, Research and Practice - David F. Marks 2010


ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor

a drug that is important in the regulation of blood pressure.


the process of learning a response or taking up a specific behaviour through association or conditioning.

Action research

a type of research concerned with the process of change and what else happens when change occurs. Action research is particularly suitable for organizations or systems requiring improvement or change.

Action stage

one of the stages proposed by the transtheoretical model of change (TMC) in which a person takes specific actions with the aim of changing unwanted behaviour, bringing positive benefits to well-being.


the early stages of a condition; normally defined as a condition that lasts for less than six months.

Acute pain

pain that lasts for less than six months.


a term used to describe a person’s physical and psychological dependency on an activity, drink or drug, seemingly beyond conscious control. Addiction is said to occur when there is: a strong desire to engage in the particular behaviour (especially when the opportunity to engage in such behaviour is not available); an impaired capacity to control the behaviour; discomfort and/or distress when the behaviour is prevented or ceased; persistence of the behaviour despite clear evidence that it is leading to problems.

Addiction theories

theories based on the construct of addiction used to explain alcoholism and other excessive behaviours (e.g., gambling, shopping, drug use, over-eating).

Adipose tissue

tissue in the body in which fat is stored as an energy reserve and which in excess leads to obesity.


the combination of affluence and influenza and referring to the negative psychological consequences of the restless pursuit of more in the consumerist era.


the capacity to take action in pursuit of intentions and goals.

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)

an advanced HIV infection which generally occurs when the CD4 count is below 200/ml. It is characterized by the appearance of opportunistic infections which take advantage of the weakened immune system and include: pneumocystis carinii pneumonia; toxoplasmosis; tuberculosis; extreme weight loss and wasting; exacerbated by diarrhoea; meningitis and other brain infections; fungal infections; syphilis; and malignancies such as lymphoma, cervical cancer and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Alcohol dependence syndrome

a psychophysiological disorder characterized by increased tolerance of alcohol, withdrawal symptoms following reduced consumption, a persistent desire, or unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control drinking.


the process whereby unfamiliar concepts are given meaning by connecting them with more familiar concepts.

Angina pectoris

the most common form of coronary heart disease. It is characterized by a heavy or tight pain in the centre of the chest that may spread to the arms, necks, jaw, face, back or stomach. Angina symptoms occur when the arteries become so narrow from the atheroma that insufficient oxygen-containing blood can be supplied to the heart muscle when its demands are high, such as during exercise.

Angina Plan

a psychological intervention for angina patients; it consists of a patient-held booklet and audio-taped relaxation programme.


blood proteins produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen. Antibodies combine chemically with substances which the body recognizes as alien, such as bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances in the blood.

Anticipated regret

the anxiety about the outcome of making a decision.

Anticoagulant drugs

drugs that prevent the clotting of blood.

Anti-essentialist view of human sexuality

the view of human sexuality as a set of potentialities which may or may not be realized within differing social, cultural and historical contexts.


a molecule that is capable of binding to an antibody or to an antigen receptor on a T cell, especially one that induces an immune response.


a type of complementary medicine that involves the use of essential oils from plant extracts for therapeutic purposes.


a condition in which the heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm.


an uncontrolled and possibly unknown variable or factor causing a misleading, spurious finding in a study.


an individual who does not experience sexual feelings.


a procedure through which a patient, client, participant or situation can be evaluated against a benchmark or criterion enabling further actions or interventions to be administered, interpreted or understood.

Assigned sex

the sex that is assigned to an infant at birth based on the child’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics.


furring-up of an artery by deposits, mainly of cholesterol, within its walls. Associated with atherosclerosis, atheroma has the effect of narrowing the lumen (channel) of the artery, thus restricting blood flow. This predisposes a person to a number of conditions, including thrombosis, angina, and stroke.


a disease of the arteries characterized by the deposition of fatty material on their inner walls.


the bond that forms between parent and child, which can have life-long consequences.

Attachment styles

Mary Ainsworth (1970) identified three main attachment styles: secure (type B), insecure avoidant (type A) and insecure ambivalent/resistant (type C). These attachment styles are the result of early interactions with the mother.


the sum of beliefs about a particular behaviour weighted by evaluations of these beliefs.

Attribution bias

the tendency to attribute positive things to oneself and negative things to others.

Attribution theory

theory of lay causal explanations of events and behaviours.


perceived or reported causes of actions, feelings or events.

Authoritarian doctor

a personality type or leadership style favouring obedience rather than freedom of expression.


the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an autoimmune disease.

Autonomic nervous system

the part of the nervous system responsible for control of bodily functions that are not consciously directed, such as breathing, the heartbeat, and digestive processes.


the ability to act without reference to others.

B cells (otherwise known as ’B lymphocytes’)

lymphocytes (a subtype of white blood cell) that have antigen-binding antibody molecules on the surface, that comprise the antibody-secreting plasma cells when mature, and that in mammals differentiate in the bone marrow. Compare with T cell.


actions in response to internal or external events.

Behaviour change technique (BCT)

an approach to health promotion that targets behaviour change in individual members of the population.

Behaviour genetics

a field in which variation among individuals is separated into genetic versus environmental components. The most common research methodologies are family studies, twin studies, adoption studies and genome-wide association studies.

Behaviour(al) setting

the social and physical setting within which a certain behaviour is expected.

Benign tumour

a growth that is not cancerous.


drugs that block the actions of the hormone adrenaline (epinephrine), which makes the heart beat faster and more vigorously.

Between groups design

a research design involving two or more matched groups of participants that receive different conditions, for example an intervention versus a control condition.

Biological reductionism

the assumption that all human experience can be directly traced to and explained with reference to its biological basis.

Biological sex

anatomical, physiological, genetic or physical attributes that define whether a person is male, female or intersex. These include genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, genes and secondary sex characteristics.

Biological therapy

the use of living organisms, substances derived from living organisms, or laboratory-produced versions of such substances to treat disease.

Biomedical model

The traditional approach of medicine to a model’s focus on the physical processes of a disease, not taking into account the role of social or psychological factors.


a health system that identifies the cause of agreed diseases and symptoms as lying in certain physiological processes.

Biopsychosocial model

the view that health and illness are produced by a combination of physical, psychological and cultural factors (Engel, 1977).

Bisexual (otherwise known as ’bi’)

a person who experiences romantic, emotional or sexual attraction to the same gender and other genders, whether to equal degrees or to varying degrees.

Black box

a device, system or object used in models which can be viewed in terms of its inputs and outputs without any knowledge of its internal workings.

Black Report

a report on health inequalities published in the UK in 1980, named after the chairman of the committee who produced the report, Sir Douglas Black.

Body image

a person’s perception of the physical character of their body.

Body mass index (BMI)

the body weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres; has a normal range of 20 to 25. An invalid indicator of clinically significant levels of visceral fat.

Bottom-up approach

listening to people about what they perceive their needs to be and acting upon that information together in an attempt to meet those needs.


a person who practises the religion of Buddhism; living in the present.

Built environment

the physical human-made objects in the everyday world.


otherwise known as Zyban, initially employed as an antidepressant, used in smoking cessation.

Burden of disease

a concept referring to the overall costs associated with a disease measured by the economic, social and psychological resources that are expended during care, treatment and rehabilitation.


the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1°C, which is about 4.184 kJ. Fat contributes 9 calories per gram, alcohol 7 calories per gram and carbohydrates 4 calories per gram.


substances, radionuclides and radiation that act directly or indirectly in causing cancer.

Cardiovascular diseases

conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect the heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, are also considered forms of heart disease.

Case study

a retrospective written report on individuals, groups or systems.

Case-control study

an epidemiological study in which exposure of patients to factors that may cause their disease (cases) is compared to the exposure to the same factors of participants who do not have the disease (controls).


the tendency to become emotional and pessimistic about symptoms, illness or difficulties.

Causal ontologies of suffering

causal frameworks for explaining illness and suffering.

Central circadian pacemaker

a cluster of neurons, the activity of which fluctuates in ± 24-hour cycles; it resides in the pineal gland.


a large portion of the brain, containing 80% of the brain’s neurones, serving to coordinate voluntary movements, posture and balance, at the back of and below the cerebrum, and consisting of two lateral lobes and a central lobe.


the process of stopping (ceasing) a specific behaviour, habit or activity; one possible outcome of the action stage in the transtheoretical model of change (TMC).

Chemotherapy (CT)

the treatment of disease by the use of chemical substances, especially the treatment of cancer by cytotoxic and other drugs.


a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur ’silently’ before a woman ever recognizes a problem. Chlamydia also can cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.


a lipid produced in the body from acetyl-CoA and present in the diet.


thread-like structures located inside the nucleus of animal and plant cells. Each chromosome is made of protein and a single molecule of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Passed from parents to offspring, DNA contains the specific instructions that make each type of living creature unique.


any condition that continues for at least six months.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

a syndrome identified in Nevada, USA, in 1984, characterized by severe fatigue and other symptoms suggesting a viral infection and persisting over long periods of time. There is much current controversy as to whether it is a psychosomatic disorder or caused by an as-yet unidentified virus. CFS is thought to be identical to myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

Chronic pain

pain that lasts longer than six months; whether mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating, it takes a physical and emotional toll on a person.

Circadian clock

a biochemical oscillator that oscillates with a stable phase relationship to solar time.

Classical conditioning

a learning process whereby a previously neutral stimulus (conditioned stimulus, CS) comes to evoke a certain response (unconditioned response, UCR) as a result of repeated previous pairings with a stimulus (unconditioned stimulus, UCS) that naturally evokes the response.

Clinical health psychology

the application of psychological theory and research to the prevention and treatment of illness and the identification of aetiologic and diagnostic correlates of health and illness and related dysfunctions.


a person who is not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, or an ally who is not open about their support for people who are LGBTQ.


thoughts, beliefs and images forming the elements of a person’s knowledge concerning the physical and psychosocial environment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

modification of thoughts, images, feelings and behaviour using the principles of classical and operant conditioning combined with cognitive techniques concerned with the control of mental states.

Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) (otherwise known as ’HAART’ or ’ART’)

a treatment for people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) using anti-HIV drugs. The standard treatment consists of a combination of at least three drugs that suppress HIV replication.

Communication styles

different approaches to verbal interaction that are characterized by particular linguistic and rhetorical techniques and strategies such as listening or question asking.

Communicative event

a joint achievement that is the product of participants’ strategic deployment of culturally available discursive resources.


an approach that focuses on the whole community rather than individuals, working towards social justice and reducing inequities.

Community development approach

an approach to health promotion that recognizes the close relationship between individual health and socio-economic factors. It aims to remove the socio-economic and environmental causes of ill health through the collective organization of members of the community.

Community health psychology

advancing theory, research and social action to promote positive well-being, increase empowerment, and prevent the development of problems of communities, groups and individuals.

Compensatory conditioned response model

an influential model put forward by Siegel (1975) to account for the phenomena of addiction, such as tolerance, dependence and withdrawal, using the principles of classical conditioning.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)

forms of health care that are not controlled by professional medicine and are based on non-orthodox systems of healing.

Compliance (or adherence)

the extent to which a person’s behaviour changes as a direct consequence of specific social influence, e.g., a measure of the extent to which patients (or doctors) follow a prescribed treatment plan.


a model of the physician—patient relationship based upon mutual respect and involvement in treatment.

Conditioned stimulus (CS)

a stimulus that, because of pairing with another stimulus (unconditioned stimulus, UCS) that naturally evokes a reflex response, is eventually able to evoke that response (see classical conditioning). The acquisition is believed to occur when there is a positive contingency between two events such that event A is more likely in the presence of event B than in the absence of B.


processes of associating stimuli and responses (see classical conditioning and operant conditioning) producing learning and experience.

Confidence interval

an interval around the mean of a sample that one can state with a known probability contains the mean of the population.

Confirmation bias or confirmatory bias

is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses.

Conflicts of interest

financial or other gains that an investigator may make from an investigation and its findings.


a Chinese philosophy which views human suffering as a result of destiny or ming.


one of the five factors of personality proposed by McCrae and Costa in their influential theory, which was originally developed in 1985. The other four factors are openness to experience, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.


style of health care that emphasizes opportunities for patient choice.

Contemplation stage

the stage of intending to change at some as-yet unspecified time in the future. It is one of the stages of the transtheoretical model of change (TMC).

Control group

a group of participants assigned to a condition that does not include the specific treatment being evaluated; used for comparative purposes.


a questionnaire devised by Carver et al. (1989) to assess the individual’s predominant coping strategies in response to stress.

Coronary angiogram

an X-ray of the arteries to help to see whether any of the arteries are blocked by atheroma.

Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)

an operation that enables a blocked area of the coronary artery to be bypassed so that blood flow can be restored to heart tissue that has been deprived of blood because of coronary heart disease (CHD). During CABG, a healthy artery or vein is taken from the leg, arm or chest and transferred to the outside of the heart. The new healthy artery or vein then carries the oxygenated blood around the blockage in the coronary artery.

Coronary heart disease (CHD)

a restriction of the blood flow to the coronary arteries, which is often evidenced by chest pains (angina) and which may result in a heart attack.

Correlational study

a study that explores the statistical associations between variables; can never be used to discover causal relationships.


a steroid hormone in the glucocorticoid class of hormones. It is a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being; it affects many different bodily functions, e.g., blood sugar levels, metabolism, reducing inflammation and assisting with memory formulation.

Cost effectiveness

a method of economic analysis that takes account of both the effectiveness and the cost of an intervention.

Critical consciousness (conscientização)

a concept developed by Paulo Freire referring to the ability to perceive social, political and economic oppression and to take action against oppressive elements of society.

Critical health psychology

analyses how power and macro-social processes influence health, health care and social issues, and studies the implications for the theory and practice of health psychology.

Cross-cultural psychology

compares and contrasts samples of populations said to be from different cultures in terms of attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviours that are viewed as stable and essential characteristics of particular cultures.

Cross-over or within-participants design

a research design in which participants are placed in two or more conditions; in theory, participants ’act as their own controls’. However, there are sequence effects, practice effects and other issues that make this design more complicated.

Cross-sectional design

involves obtaining responses from a sample of respondents on one occasion only. With appropriate randomized sampling methods, the sample can be assumed to be a representative cross-section of the population(s) under study and it will be possible to make comparisons between different sub-groups, e.g., males vs. females, older vs. younger, etc.

Cross-sectional study

a type of observational study that analyzes data collected from a population, or a representative sample, at a specific point in time.

Cues to action

reminders or prompts to take action consistent with an intention; cues may be internal (e.g., feeling fatigued can trigger actions to take time out or relax) or external (e.g., seeing health promotion leaflets or posters).

Cultural competence

a set of competencies that involve cultural sensitivity and appropriateness of staff and health systems.

Cultural psychology

the study of human conduct as a form of meaning-making, according to the approach of Valsiner (2013) and others.


a system of meanings and symbols that defines a worldview that frames the way people locate themselves within the world, perceive the world, and find meaning within it.


a large group of proteins, peptides or glycoproteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system; they mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation and hematopoiesis.

Death gradient

the variation in mortality that occurs across a population when the population is segmented according to socio-economic status such that the mortality rate is higher among those groups which have lower socio-economic status.

Decisional balance

weighing the pros and cons of behaviour change.

Deficit mode

the absence of something which is valued.

Deficit model

an explanation used by health care professionals to account for low compliance, e.g., women who do not use a screening service may be characterized as lacking in knowledge and concern about their health.


refusing to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)

is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA). The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99% of those bases are the same in all people.

Deviant patient

a perspective on doctor—patient communication focusing on the characteristics of the patient as creating problems for the doctor.

Diary techniques

any data collection method in which the data are linked to the passage of time. They often involve self-report but may also contain information about observations of others.

Direct observation

directly observing behaviour in a relevant setting, e.g., patients waiting for treatment in a doctor’s surgery or clinic. The observation may be accompanied by recordings in written, oral, auditory or visual form. It includes casual observation, formal observation and participant observation.


(1) ’A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such impairment, or a perception of such impairment.’ (2) ’Any physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities (caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, and the like)’ (The Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990).

Disability culture

a group identity, a common history of oppression and a common bond of resilience held with pride and consisting of art, music, literature and other expressions of the experience of disability.

Disability-adjusted life year (DALY)

the total amount of healthy life lost, to all causes, whether from premature mortality or from some degree of disability during a period of time. The DALY is the sum of years of life lost from premature mortality plus years of life with disability, adjusted for severity of disability from all causes, both physical and mental (Murray and Lopez, 1997).


talk or text embedded in social interaction presenting an account of the constitution of subjects and objects; an opinion or position concerning a particular subject.

Discourse analysis

a set of procedures for analysing language as used in speech or texts. It has links with ethnomethodology, conversation analysis and the study of meaning (semiology).

Discourse of risk

ways of talking and practices that attribute ill health to personal characteristics, and construct an ’at-risk’ status as a state in between health and illness.

Disease prototype

a cognitive construct or model of a representative case of a specific disease.

Disease theories

the idea that the loss of control of behaviour, such as alcohol consumption or eating, is a disease based on personal or inherited characteristics that predispose particular individuals to the condition (e.g., alcoholism or obesity).

Doctor-centred communication style

a communication style which primarily makes use of the doctor’s expertise by keeping control of the interview agenda.


a neurotransmitter in the brain thought to be responsible for sensations of pleasure triggered by events or by the intake of substances such as tobacco or alcohol.

Double-blind control

a procedure used in randomized controlled trials to prevent bias, in which neither the participant not the investigator knows the condition or group that a participant has been allocated to.

Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)

originally used to measure bone density and total body composition; it can also be used to determine abdominal fat mass.

Dual processing model

the idea that cognitive representations of danger (e.g., illness threat) are processed independently of the emotional processing.

Ecological approach

a model or theory about health and behaviour that emphasizes environmental influences.

Ecological validity

the extent to which the environment within which behaviour or experience is studied captures the relevant features of the real-world environment.

Effect size

the size of an observed effect measured in standard deviation units.

Effort—reward balance

the balance between the workload of a job and the pay received.


the application of information and communication technology to health or health care.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

a physiological measure used to examine the electrical activity of the heart.

Emotional liability

a personal characteristic referring to an unstable, variable pattern in a person’s responses to events.


feelings associated with facial, bodily and verbal expressive behaviour, and internal, visceral activity and thoughts, when affected by interpersonal and environmental events; examples include love, joy, pleasure, ecstasy, pride, lust, greed, envy, jealousy, sadness, fear, worry, anger, disgust, distress or hate; also referred to as positive or negative ’affect’.


the ability to understand and share the feelings of another; trying to sense, perceive, share or conceptualize how another person is experiencing the world.


any process by which people, groups or communities exercise increased control or sense of control over aspects of their everyday lives, including their physical and social environments.

End-of-life (EOL) care

support for people in the last months or years of their life.

Energy balance equation (EBE)

an equation relating energy intake to internal heat produced by food, external work and energy storage as follows: energy intake = internal heat produced + external work + energy stored.

Energy envelope theory

a theory developed by Leonard Jason that recommends that patients to learn to pace activities and stay within an energy envelope appears to have favourable outcomes for patients with ME/CFS.

Energy expenditure

use by the body of chemical energy from food and drink or body stores during the processes of metabolism that is dissipated as heat, including heat generated by muscular activity. The day’s total energy expenditure is measured in calories of heat lost.

Energy intake

the chemical energy in food and drink that can be metabolized to produce energy in the body. The day’s total energy intake is measured in calories supplied by all food and drink consumed.

Energy Surfeit Theory (EST)

the theory that energy gained due to consumption of foods relative to loss of energy due to exercise causes the body to gain weight.

Environmental foundations

key elements of the working environment relevant to the occupational health and well-being of employees.

Epidemiological transition

in middle- and low-income countries, the time at which non-communicable disease prevalence equals and overtakes the prevalence of communicable diseases.


the study of associations between patterns of disease in populations and environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors.


the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.


a multitude of chemical compounds that can tell the genome what to do. It consists of a record of the chemical changes to the DNA and histone proteins of an organism; these changes can be passed down to an organism’s offspring via transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

Equity theory

the tendency of individuals to balance the effort invested in a role with the rewards obtained from the role in return.

Ethical approval

the requirement of any research project to present before a panel of experts on ethical issues, and have the panel’s explicit approval of the aims, design, sample size and power analysis, participants, how they will be chosen, information provided to the participants, method of consent used, methods of data analysis, nature and timing of the debriefing of participants, and methods of dissemination.


pertaining to ethnic group or race.


a bias in perception, thinking or principles stemming from membership of a particular ethnic or cultural group.

Ethnographic methods

seek to build a systematic understanding of a culture from the viewpoint of the insider. Ethnographic methods are multiple attempts to describe the shared beliefs, practices, artefacts, knowledge and behaviours of an intact cultural group. They attempt to represent the totality of a phenomenon in its complete context and naturalistic setting. The methods include autoethnography, combining autobiography with ethnography.


refers to self-realization; it defines well-being in terms of the degree to which a person’s life activities mesh with deeply held values and are fully engaged in authentic personal expression.


a discredited set of beliefs and practices based on the assumption that the genetic quality of the human population varied between population groups and races.


the belief that controlling breeding should be used to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics in a population.


the assessment of the efficacy or effectiveness of an intervention, project or programme in terms of processes and/or outcomes.

Evidence-based practice (EBP)

a policy of using only techniques and procedures that have a solid empirical foundation, i.e., the procedures have been demonstrated to benefit the service user.

Exercise tolerance test (ETT)

the recording of the heart’s electrical activity while it is under the stress of increased physical demand.

Extrinsic motives

motives based on external factors, such as appearance, conformity or norms.

False positive

a result of a medical test that incorrectly identifies the person as having a certain condition.


triglycerides that are either solid (e.g., butter, lard) or liquid (e.g., vegetable or fish oil) at room temperature.

Fat balance equation

states that the rate of change of fat stores equals the rate of fat intake minus the rate of fat oxidation.

Female orgasmic disorder

persistent or recurrent delay in, or absence of, orgasm following a ’normal’ sexual excitement phase.

Flowchart model

a diagrammatic representation of the relationships between processes and/or variables that are believed to be related to each other.

Focus groups

one or more group discussions in which participants focus collectively upon a topic or issue usually presented to them as a group of questions (or other stimuli) leading to the generation of interactive data.

Foetal alcohol syndrome

an abnormality found in children whose mothers drink heavily during pregnancy; it is characterized by facial abnormalities, mental impairment and stunted growth.

Foetal Origins Hypothesis

(or Barker’s hypothesis) postulates that foetal conditions, most likely nutritional conditions, ’programme’ the foetus for the development of chronic diseases in adulthood.

Food reward theory

the theory that suggests that the overconsumption of food, which may lead to overweight and obesity, is a consequence of the activation of pleasure centres in the brain and the reinforcement of eating as a learned behaviour.


a general representation for conceptualizing a research field or question.

Gain-framed messages

information about a health behaviour that emphasizes the benefits of taking action.

Galenic medicine

a health system derived from Greek and Arabic health beliefs.


an organism’s reproductive cells, also referred to as ’sex cells’. Female gametes are called oocytes, ova or egg cells, and male gametes are called sperm. Gametes are haploid cells, with each cell carrying only one copy of each chromosome.

Gate control theory

a theory that views pain as a perceptual experience, in which ascending physiological inputs and descending psychological inputs are equally involved. It posits a gating mechanism in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord that permits or inhibits the transmission of pain impulses to the brain.


the adjective used to describe people who are emotionally, romantically or physically attracted to people of the same gender.


a set of social, psychological or emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations, that classify an individual as male, female, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Nonconforming (GNC)

a person whose identified gender is expansive beyond the binary of male or female.

General adaptation syndrome (GAS)

an influential three-stage model of the physiological response to stress put forward by Hans Selye but no longer thought to be valid.


the genetic material of an organism. It consists of DNA (or RNA in RNA viruses). The genome includes both the genes (the coding regions), the noncoding DNA and the genetic material of the mitochondria and chloroplasts.

Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) (otherwise known as the Whole Genome Association Study)

an examination of a genome-wide set of genetic variants in different individuals to see whether any variant is associated with a trait.


the DNA sequence of the genetic makeup of a cell, organism or individual that determines a specific characteristic (phenotype) of that cell, organism or individual.

Germ theory

a theory of disease that focuses on identifying specific germs or pathogens as the primary cause of disease.

Gestational diabetes

high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth. It can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but is more common in the second half. It occurs if your body cannot produce enough insulin (a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels) to meet the extra needs in pregnancy.

Glial cell

sometimes called ’neuroglia’ or simply ’glia’, this is a non-neuronal cell that maintains homeostasis, forms myelin and provides support and protection for neurones in the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Global burden of disease (GBD)

the universal totality of the economic, social and psychological costs of a disease attributable to both morbidity and mortality over a fixed interval of time.


the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale.


any of a group of corticosteroids (e.g. hydrocortisone) that are involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats and have anti-inflammatory activity.

Glycaemic index

a measure of the rise in the blood glucose/sugar level produced by a food.

Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) test

this is used to show how well diabetes is being controlled. The HbA1c test gives an average blood glucose level over the previous two to three months.


a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes (egg canals) in women, and in the urethra (urine canal) in women and men. The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.

Gradient of reinforcement

a principle applied mainly to operant conditioning whereby the acquisition of a learned response occurs more quickly the more rapidly a reward follows the occurrence of the response.

Grass roots

a movement founded in groups of local people working cooperatively to achieve greater well-being.

Gross domestic product (GDP)

the value of the goods and services produced by all sectors of the economy: agriculture, manufacturing, energy, construction, the service sector and government.

Gross national income (GNI)

the total net value of all goods and services produced within a nation over a specified period of time, representing the sum of wages, profits, rents, interest and pension payments to residents of the nation.

Grounded theory analysis

an analysis of transcripts, involving coding, followed by the generation of categories using constant comparative analysis within and between interview transcripts. This is followed by memo-writing, which requires the researcher to expand upon the meaning of the broader conceptual categories. This, in turn, can lead to further data generation through theoretical sampling.


a phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.


a personality trait first proposed by Kobasa and consisting of a high level of commitment, a sense of control and a willingness to confront challenges. Hardiness may protect the individual against the effects of stress.


a state of well-being with satisfaction of physical, cultural, psychosocial, economic and spiritual needs, not simply the absence of illness.

Health belief model (HBM)

a psychological model that posits that health behaviour is a function of a combination of factors, including the perceived benefits of and barriers to treatment and the perceived susceptibility to and seriousness of the health problem.

Health belief system

ways of thinking about the causes of health and illness.

Health communication

the field of study concerned with the ways in which communication can contribute to the promotion of health.

Health education

the process by which individuals’ knowledge about the causes of health and illness is increased.

Health gradient

the relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and mortality or morbidity that normally shows a monotonic increase as SES changes from low to high.

Health habits

routine behaviours acquired by learning or conditioning that protect health or put health at risk.

Health literacy

the ability to read and understand about health and health care, enabling an individual to take decisions about treatment and prevention.

Health promotion

any event, process or activity which facilitates the protection or improvement of the health of individuals, groups, communities or populations.

Health psychology

an interdisciplinary field concerned with the application of psychological knowledge and techniques to health, illness and health care.


an ideology that situates health and disease as the personal responsibility of the individual; it can lead to the ’medicalization’ of everyday life. Healthist ideas can be used as a form of social control.

Healthy living centres

local organizations designed to promote health and reduce health inequalities.

Heart attack

a sudden occurrence of coronary thrombosis, typically resulting in the death of part of a heart muscle and sometimes fatal.

Heart failure

severe failure of the heart to function properly; a cause of death.

Herbal medicine

a type of complementary medicine that involves the use of plants and plant extracts to treat illnesses or to promote well-being.


a statistic (H2) used in genetics that estimates how much variation in a phenotypic trait in a population is due to genetic variation among individuals in that population. Other causes of measured variation in a trait are characterized as environmental factors, including measurement error.

Hermeneutic phenomenology

the study of personal meanings underpinning everyday reality.

Hierarchy of needs

a concept developed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 theory of motivation, in which human needs are alleged to be in a fixed order, starting with physiological need satisfaction and ending with self-actualization.


any of a group of basic proteins found in chromatin.

Histone modification

a covalent post-translational modification (PTM) to histone proteins that includes methylation, phosphorylation, acetylation, ubiquitylation and sumoylation. The PTMs made to histones can impact gene expression by altering chromatin structure or recruiting histone modifiers.

Historical analysis

the use of data produced from memory, historical sources or artefacts.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)

the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); it replicates in and kills the helper T cells. The virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood transmission and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV infection to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding.


a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) which involves the use of highly diluted substances to trigger the body’s natural healing system.


a fundamental principle of living things which entails continuous adjustment towars a set point or optimum level of functioning; the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements.


an aversion to lesbian or gay people that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias.


any member of a class of signalling molecules produced by glands in multicellular organisms that are transported by the circulatory system to target distant organs to regulate physiology and behaviour.

Hospice movement

a movement started by Dame Cicely Mary Saunders who pioneered St Christopher’s Hospice in London in 1967, created as a medical, teaching and research facility dedicated to the physical, emotional and spiritual care of the dying. In hospices multi-disciplinary teams strive to offer dignity, peace and calm at the end of life.

Human sexual response cycle

a sequence of stages of sexual arousal taking the individual from initial excitement to a plateau phase, through orgasm, to resolution of sexual tension.

Humours (doctrine of the four humours)

dating back to the physicians of ancient Greece, the belief that the body is essentially composed of four constituents or humours (blood, phlegm, and black and yellow bile), and that diseases and psychological characteristics are attributable to an excess or shortage of one or more of the four.

Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis

a complex of three endocrine glands: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands.

Hysteria (conversion hysteria)

physical symptoms that appear to indicate organic disease but where there is no clinical evidence of disease. Nowadays this term is often replaced by psychosomatic (or somatoform) disorder.


health problems caused by medical or health care interventions, including accidents, inappropriate treatments, incorrect diagnoses, drug side effects and other problems.

Identity control

a term used to describe the process by which a person deliberately attempts to control the image they present to others.

Illness perceptions

beliefs about illness.

Illness representations

organized mental models of the character of illness.


a medical procedure designed to protect susceptible individuals from communicable diseases by the administration of a vaccine. This procedure is aimed at both immediate protection of individuals and immunity across the whole community where the uptake rate is high.


a state in which the immune system’s ability to fight infectious disease and cancer is compromised or entirely absent.


a chemical agent that modifies the immune response or the functioning of the immune system (e.g., by the stimulation of antibody formation or the inhibition of white blood cell activity).


the gradual deterioration of the immune system brought on by natural age advancement. It involves both the host’s capacity to respond to infections and the development of long-term immune memory, especially by vaccination.

Implementation intentions

specific plans about how intentions to change a certain behaviour will actually be successfully implemented.


the rate at which new cases of a disease occur in a population during a specified period. In the simplest terms, for example, ’The incidence of STIs in 2008 was 200 cases per 10,000 people per year in Newtown compared with 150 cases per 10,000 people per year in Oldtown’.

Income distribution

the distribution of income across the population. It can be measured in terms of the percentage share of national income earned by the best-off or worst-off proportions of the population; e.g., in the USA in 1991 the highest 20% of the population received 41.9% of the total national income while the worst-off 20% received 4.7%.


belonging to a particular culture, race or tribal group.


a cultural value that enshrines the personal control and responsibility of the individual.


a difference in life opportunities that is correlated with social position or status, ethnicity, gender, age or any other way of grouping people (see also social inequality).


a lack of fairness or justice between different social groups.


part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, which strives to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissue damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair. The classical signs of inflammation are heat, pain, redness, swelling and loss of function.


a hormone produced in the pancreas by the islets of Langerhans, which regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. An animal-derived or synthetic form of insulin is used to treat diabetes.

Insulin theory

the theory that obesity is caused by a chronic elevation in insulin in a diet that contains too much carbohydrate (Taubes, 2007, 2009).

Interaction analysis system (IAS)

an observation instrument that identifies, categorizes and quantifies features of the doctor—patient encounter.

Interactive dyad

a focus on communication between two people.

Intergenerational transmission

the transfer of individual abilities, traits, behaviors and outcomes from parents to their children.

Internal validity

the degree to which the results of a study can be attributed to the manipulations of the researchers and are likely to be free of bias.

Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)

a technique for analysing qualitative data that seeks the meaning of experience.

Interpretative repertoire

a series of linguistic devices that people draw upon in constructing their accounts of events.


the intentional and systematic manipulation of variables with the aim of improving health outcomes.

Interviews (structured or semi-structured)

a structured interview schedule is a prepared standard set of questions which are asked in person, or perhaps by telephone, of a person or group of persons concerning a particular research issue or question. A semi-structured interview is much more open-ended and allows the interviewee scope to address the issues which he/she feels to be relevant to the topics being raised by the investigator.

Intrinsic motives

motives based on feelings of pleasure, pride or enjoyment brought about by participating in an activity.

Inverse care law

the observation that the highest access to care is available to those who need it least (e.g., the more educated, articulate, affluent members of society), while the lowest access to care is available to those who need it most.

Job satisfaction

a positive emotional state resulting from work experience.

Job security

holding an employed position that has a high probability of long-term continuation.

Job strain or demand-control model

the idea that employee well-being depends upon the interaction of role demand and control, as proposed by Karasek and Theorell (1990).


the number and visual appearance of the chromosomes in the cell nuclei of an organism or species.


a metabolic state in which some of the body’s energy supply comes from ketone bodies in the blood.

Latent benefits

the less tangible benefits of employment, e.g., satisfaction of psychological needs.


an acronym that collectively refers to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender with ’Q’ representing queer or questioning. It is sometimes stated as ’GLBT’ (gay, lesbian, bi and transgender) or ’LBGT’.


a woman who is emotionally, romantically and/or physically attracted to other women.


(or leucocytes) the white blood cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders, derived from multipotent cells in the bone marrow.

Liberation psychology

draws inspiration from the liberation theology developed by the worker-priest movement in Latin America during the 1950s and 1960s. This movement argues that it is the duty of Catholics to fight against social injustice and to adopt a ’preferential option for the poor’. These ideas were practised by Salvadorian Jesuit psychologist Ignacio Martín-Baró.

Life events and difficulties schedule (LEDS)

a psychological measurement of the stressfulness of life events, created by Brown and Harris in 1978. The schedule is based upon an interview which discusses the contextual information around the event.

Lifestyle sports

sports associated with a particular lifestyle, e.g., snowboarding, surfing.

Literature search

’combing through’ or ’mining’ the literature relevant to a review or a new study.

Liver cirrhosis

a frequently fatal form of liver damage, usually found among long-term heavy drinkers. Initially, fat accumulates on the liver, enlarging it; this restricts blood flow, causing damage to cells, and scar tissue develops, preventing the liver from functioning normally.

Locus of control

personality traits first proposed by social psychologists and then adapted by health psychologists to distinguish between those who attribute their state of health to themselves, powerful others or chance.

Longitudinal designs

involve measuring responses of a single sample on more than one occasion. These measurements may be prospective or retrospective, but prospective longitudinal designs allow greater control over the sample, the variables measured and the times when the measurements take place.

Loss-framed messages

information about a health behaviour that emphasizes the costs of failing to take action.

Lymph nodes (aka lymph glands)

small, bean-shaped organs located throughout the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes store special cells that can trap cancer cells or bacteria that are traveling through the body in lymph.

Lymphatic system

part of the circulatory system and a vital part of the immune system, comprising a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph (from Latin lympha, meaning ’water’) directionally towards the heart.


a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells.


a strong and exaggerated sense of masculinity emphasizing physical attributes.


an environmental substance used for energy, growth and bodily functions, which is needed in large amounts by humans: carbohydrates (sugar), lipids (fats) and proteins.


large white blood cells that are an integral part of our immune system. Their job is to locate microscopic foreign bodies and to ’eat’ them.


large-scale social, economic, political and cultural forces that influence the life course of masses of people simultaneously.

Maintenance stage

the continued practice of or adherence to a specific health-promoting behaviour, e.g., abstinence from smoking. It is one of the stages in the transtheoretical model of change (TMC).


a method for imaging breast tissue of women using radiography for detecting early signs of breast cancer.

Manifest benefits

the concrete benefits of employment (e.g., income).


having purpose or value.

Medical error

errors in medical diagnosis and treatment.

Medical model

a way of thinking about health and illness that assumes all health and illness phenomena are physiological in nature. According to this model, health, illness and treatments have a purely biological or biochemical basis.

Medical silence

a reluctance of the medical profession to publicly acknowledge or report errors.


the process by which experiences and practices which do not match those defined as ’natural’ and ’healthy’ are pathologized and treated as dysfunctional.


a quantitative literature review that combines the evidence from relevant previous studies, taking account of criteria for quality and allowing high statistical power.


the spread of cancer cells to secondary sites in the body.


a process by which methyl groups are added to the DNA molecule that change the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequence. When located in a gene promoter, DNA methylation typically acts to repress gene transcription.


the microorganisms of a particular site (e.g. the gut), habitat or geological period.

Microglial cell

the endogenous brain defence and immune system responsible for central nervous system (CNS) protection against various types of pathogenic factors.


a heavily-hyped Buddhist concept, developed from 1979 and popularized in many publications by Jon Kabat-Zinn; paying attention to one’s thoughts, feelings and actions; an acute awareness of the conscious flow of experience.

Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP)

the application of the methods of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders; it was first proposed by Witkiewitz et al. (2005).

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

a method of stress management based on the concept of mindfulness.


structures within cells that convert the energy from food into a usable form.

Mobile health or m-health

the delivery of health care services via mobile communication devices. It overlaps with e-health, the electronic technology that supports the functions and delivery of health care.


an abstract representation of relationships between processes believed to influence each other.

Moral discourses of suffering

a language derived from moral principles that is used to describe and explain health and illness.

Motivational interviewing (or motivation enhancement therapy)

a brief intervention developed by W.R. Miller for the treatment of alcohol and drug problems. It aims to boost the clients’ self-esteem and motivation to change, in contrast to traditional confrontational approaches.

Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) scale

a popular scale for assessing a person’s attributions of experience as internally or externally controlled, controlled by powerful others, or the consequence of chance.

Multiple regression

a statistical technique based on correlations between variables that enables predictions to be made about dependent variables using a combination of two or more independent variables.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)

a syndrome first observed in an epidemic at the Royal Free Hospital, London, in 1955, now usually thought to be identical to chronic fatigue syndrome and controversial for the same reasons.


a mixture of proteins and phospholipids forming a whitish insulating sheath around many nerve fibres, which increases the speed at which impulses are conducted.

Myocardial infarction (MI)

a form of coronary heart disease (CHD) or ’heart attack’ that occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked by a blood clot and part of the heart is starved of oxygen. It usually causes severe chest pain. MI is often the first sign of CHD in many people.


a structured discourse that connects agents and events over time in the form of a story.

Narrative approaches

seek insight and meaning through the acquisition of data in the form of stories concerning personal experiences (Murray, 1997a). These approaches assume that human beings are natural storytellers and that the principal task of the psychologist is to explore the different stories being told.

Narrative synthesis

a systematic descriptive form of integrating findings (see the Economic and Social Research Council Research Methods Programme general framework for narrative synthesis; Popay et al., 2006).

Natural killer cells (otherwise known as as ’NK cells’, ’K cells’ and ’killer cells’)

a type of lymphocyte and a component of the innate immune system. NK cells play a major role in the host-rejection of both tumours and virally infected cells.

Necessity-Concerns Framework

adherence is influenced by implicit judgements of personal need for the treatment (necessity beliefs) and concerns about the potential adverse consequences of taking it.

Need satisfaction

the attainment of physical health, agency and autonomy; the satisfaction of all physical, cultural, psychosocial, economic and spiritual needs. It is necessary for health and well-being.

Neoadjuvant treatment

treatment given as a first step to shrink a tumour before the main treatment, which is usually surgery. Examples of neoadjuvant therapy include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.

Neo-material explanations

income inequality is caused by political processes which influence individual economic resources and impact community resources such as schooling, health care, social welfare, and working conditions.


a subset of a neurotransmitter. Unlike neurotransmitters, the release of neuromodulators occurs in a diffuse manner (’volume transmission’) so that an entire neural tissue may be subject to the neuromodulator’s action due to exposure.


(otherwise known as a neuron or nerve cell) an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals.


a chemical that enables the transmission of signals from one neurone to the next across synapses. These are also found at the axon endings of motor neurones, where they stimulate the muscle fibres. They and their close relatives are also produced by some glands, such as the pituitary and adrenal glands.


a chemical found in tobacco that acts as a stimulant. It can be fatal in large amounts and is largely responsible for the addictive properties of tobacco. It is also used as an insecticide.

Nicotine paradox

nicotine is a stimulant, yet smokers experience relaxation when they smoke.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)

a pharmaceutical treatment for smoking cessation that has obtained marginally superior results to a placebo in trials sponsored and hyped by the pharmaceutical industry and its consultants. The method should definitely be avoided in pregnancy and adolescence. Real-world studies in the general population show a lack of effectiveness.

Nucleotides (otherwise known as phosphate nucleotides)

the building blocks of nucleic acids. They are composed of three sub-unit molecules: a nitrogenous base, a five-carbon sugar (ribose or deoxyribose), and at least one phosphate group. A nucleoside is a nitrogenous base and a 5-carbon sugar.


a stigmatised condition that is not itself an illness involving an excessive accumulation of body fat, usually defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. A risk factor for illnesses such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and cancer.


an environment that exposes the population to a large number of foods and drinks that have a high percentage of fats and sugars.


the process whereby a more abstract concept acquires meaning through association with everyday phenomena. The process transforms an abstract concept into a concrete image.

Observational studies

studies that are designed to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that, for whatever reason, cannot or do not use a randomized controlled design.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep caused by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort. It can be worsened by being overweight and obese, and is associated with snoring.

Occupational stress

psychological, emotional or physical strain resulting from workplace demands and environment.


a cell in an ovary which may undergo meiotic division to form an ovum.

Operant conditioning

a learning process whereby a normally voluntary form of behaviour comes to occur with increasing frequency in a particular situation, or in the presence of a particular stimulus, as a result of previously and repeatedly having been rewarded in similar circumstances.


the use of rules or a method of measurement to define an object or quality.

Opportunistic intervention

an attempt to modify health hazardous behaviour, such as smoking or heavy drinking, by a health professional, frequently a doctor, who has been consulted for other reasons.

Optimistic bias

the mistaken belief that one’s chances of experiencing a negative event are lower (or a positive event higher) than that of one’s peers.

Outcome evaluation

an assessment of an intervention that examines the objective outcome in a controlled investigation of the effects or impact of the intervention.

Outreach programme

an intervention that aims to achieve sub-cultural change among hard-to-reach target constituencies in order to improve health outcomes.

Palliative care

care for the terminally ill and their families provided by an organized health service.

Palliative treatment

designed to relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life. It can be used at any stage of an illness if there are troubling symptoms, such as pain or sickness. It can also be used to reduce or control the side effects of cancer treatments.

Pansexual (or ’pan’)

a person who experiences romantic, emotional or sexual attraction to persons of all gender identities or sexes.

Pap test

a medical procedure for conducting cervical screening examinations.

Parasympathetic nervous system

part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate, increase intestinal and glandular activity, and relax the sphincter muscles. Together with the sympathetic nervous system, it constitutes the autonomic nervous system.

Participatory action research (PAR)

a form of action research that deliberately seeks to provoke some form of social or community change in which the instigator/investigator works collaboratively with stakeholders by taking actions to bring about desired change in a step-by-step process.

Participatory learning

the full participation of people in the processes of learning about their needs and opportunities, and in the action required to address them.

Patient informatics

a programme that aims to enable patients to make better use of information and communication technology for health and health care.

Patient safety

the prevention of avoidable errors and adverse effects on patients associated with health care.

Patient satisfaction

a measure of the extent to which patients’ expectations of what a medical encounter ought to provide have been met (as judged by the patients).

Patient-centred communication style

a doctor’s communication style which mobilizes the patient’s knowledge, experience and involvement through techniques such as silence, listening and reflection.

Peer pressure

influence from members of one’s peer group.


a compound containing two or more amino acids in which the carboxyl group of one acid is linked to the amino group of the other.

Perceived behavioural control

the feeling of having control over one’s actions in response to others and the environment.

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)

a procedure that unblocks narrowed coronary arteries without performing surgery. This may be done with either a balloon catheter to push the atheroma to the side of the artery or a stent inserted to keep the artery open.

Pessimistic explanatory style

the tendency of some individuals to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong in their lives; it is believed to be associated with poor physical health.

P-hacking (aka data dredging, data fishing or data snooping)

is the use of data mining to uncover patterns in data that can be presented as statistically significant, without any advanced hypothesis as to the underlying causality.


the study of the participant’s perspective of the world.


the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of the individual’s genotype with the environment.

Phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor

a drug used to block the degradative action of cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) on cyclic GMP in the smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels supplying the corpus cavernosum of the penis.

Physical activity

bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.

Physical dependency

the experience of unpleasant physical symptoms when a person stops using or reduces consumption of a drug, tobacco or alcohol.

Physical education

the systematic instruction in sports and physical activity given as part of school or college education.

Physical side effects

the unwanted physiological effects that accompany medication.

Physician-assisted death (PAD)

intentionally providing a person with the knowledge or means or both required to commit suicide, including counselling about lethal doses of drugs, prescribing such lethal doses or supplying the drugs.


an inert substance or treatment that lacks any specific effect but which may induce the perception of benefit.

Placebo control

a control condition that appears similar to a treatment when in fact it is completely general.

Placebo effect

an effect from a placebo drug or treatment that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself.

Population pyramid

a graphical method of representing the age distribution of populations at different time points. It shows the number of people in each differently coloured age band, as indicated by the width of the band, with younger age groups at the base and older age groups at the top, and with males on one side and females on the other.


the epistemological position that places scientific method as the sole source of reliable knowledge.

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) (aka benefit finding)

is positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

the long-term psychological and physiological effects of exposure to traumatic stress, including insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, problems of memory and concentration, acting or feeling as if the event is recurring and a greatly increased sensitivity to new stressful events.


the level of income below which people cannot afford a minimum, nutritionally adequate diet and essential non-food requirements.

Power analysis

a method for deciding how large a sample is needed to enable a statistical judgement that is accurate and reliable, and how likely it is that the particular statistical test to be used will be able to detect effects of a given size in a particular situation; e.g., how big a sample is necessary to have an 8 probability of detecting a difference at the .05 level of significance.

Pre-contemplation stage

the stage of knowing that a habit or behaviour is hazardous but without any intention to change it in the foreseeable future. It is one of the stages in the transtheoretical model of change (TMC).

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (otherwise known as ’PrEP’)

applies to people at very high risk for HIV who take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of becoming infected.

Preparation stage

the stage at which a person intends to take action in the immediate future, having developed a specific plan of action. It is one of the stages in the transtheoretical model of change (TMC).


the number of people with a disease or behaviour shown as a proportion of the population or sub-population at any point in time.

Preventive health behaviours

behaviours people choose to engage in with the aim of protecting and/or improving their health status.

Process evaluation

an assessment of how well an intervention is implemented in terms of the activities that occur, who is conducting the activities, who is being reached, what inputs or resources have been allocated, and what the strengths, weaknesses and areas are that need improvement.

Prospect theory

the theory that proposes that people consider their ’prospects’ (i.e., potential gains and losses) when making a decision. It is a theory that has influenced message framing in health promotion.

Prospective study

a longitudinal cohort study that follows over time a group of similar individuals (cohorts) who differ with respect to certain factors understudy, to determine how these factors affect rates of a certain outcome.

Protein leverage hypothesis

the hypothesis that humans prioritize protein when regulating food intake (Simpson and Raubenheimer, 2012).

Psychological dependency

a state associated with repeated activity or consumption of a drug or drink, which leads to negative affect following reduced consumption or abstinence and a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the activity.

Psychological homeostasis

refers to the psychological need to reach and maintain a state of equilibrium.

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)

the study of the effects of psychological variables, and especially stress, on the immune system.


the psychological aspects of cancer care and treatment.

Psychosocial explanations

accounts of events and experiences based on theories and research from psychology and the social sciences.

Psychosomatic (or somatoform) disorders

physical ailments believed to be psychologically caused, including hysteria and some conditions that have organic features, such as ulcers and asthma.

Psychosomatic medicine

a precursor of modern health psychology which flourished from the 1930s to the 1950s. Its proponents, including Alexander (1950) believed that psychoanalytic theories about unconscious conflicts could be extended to explain susceptibility to various organic diseases.

Public health psychology

the application of psychological theory, research and technologies towards the improvement of the health of the population.

Punishment circuit

this functions by means of acetylcholine, which stimulates the secretion of adrenal cortico-trophic hormone (ACTH). ACTH in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenalin to prepare the body’s organs for fight or flight. Stimulation of the punishment circuit can inhibit the reward circuit, so that fear and punishment can eliminate pleasure.

Qualitative research methods

methods that are intended to provide an improved understanding of the meanings, purposes and intentions of behaviour, not its amount or quantity.

Quality of dying and death (QoDD)

the degree to which a person’s preferences for dying and the moment of death agree with observations of how the person actually died, as reported by others.

Quality of life (QoL)

the general well-being of a person or society, defined in terms of physical health and mental well-being, including happiness and autonomy, and not necessarily wealth.

Quasi-experimental design

a comparison of two or more treatments in as controlled a manner as possible but without the possibility of manipulating an independent variable or randomly allocating participants.


many constructs in health psychology are measured using questionnaires consisting of a standard set of items with accompanying instructions. Ideally, a questionnare will have been demonstrated to be both a reliable and valid measure of the construct(s) it purports to measure.

Quit For Life (QFL) Programme

a psychological therapy using cognitive behavioural principles enabling smokers to quit (Marks, 1993, 2005).


discrimination on the basis of race or skin colour.

Radiotherapy (RT)

this uses ionizing radiation, generally as part of cancer treatment to control or kill malignant cells, normally delivered by a linear accelerator.

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs)

these involve the systematic comparison of interventions employing a fully controlled application of one or more interventions or ’treatments’ using a random allocation of participants to the different treatment groups.

Rasch analysis

an approach of mathematical modelling based on a latent trait, which accomplishes stochastic (probabilistic) conjoint additivity (conjoint means the measurement of persons and items on the same scale and additivity is the equal-interval property of the scale).

Reactance theory

a theory concerning the tendency to resist attempts by others to control one’s behaviour.


a type of complementary medicine that involves the application of pressure and massage to specific reflex areas in the body.


going back to consumption of tobacco, alcohol or a drug after a period of voluntary abstinence.

Relapse prevention therapy

strategies and procedures for reducing the likelihood of relapse.


the attempt by an investigator to repeat a study to determine whether the original findings can be repeated.

Responsible consumer

a consumer who takes a measured, rational, evidence-based approach to his or her consumption of foods, beverages and other potentially hazardous products, such as tobacco.


a coronary artery blockage that occurs following percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).


a term that describes surgical and catheter procedures that are used to restore blood flow to the heart.

Reward circuit

the reward pathway in the brain consisting principally of the mesolimbic dopamine system.

Ribonucleic acid (RNA)

a linear molecule composed of four types of smaller molecules called ribonucleotide bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and uracil (U). RNA is often compared to a copy from a reference book, or a template, because it carries the same information as its DNA template but is not used for long-term storage.

Risk compensation

a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behaviour in response to the perceived level of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected.

Role ambiguity

the lack of information necessary to conduct the role, and information deficiency regarding expected role behaviours, role objectives and responsibilities.

Role conflict

incompatible role demands placed upon an individual.

Role demand

the expectations placed upon a person within a role.

Safer sex practices

sexual practices that do not involve the exchange of bodily fluids, which may contain the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Such bodily fluids are blood, semen and vaginal fluids.


a procedure for the identification of the presence of certain diseases, conditions or behaviours in a community. Those sections of the population who are most at risk of developing a particular disease are examined to see whether they have any early indications. The rationale behind this strategy is that the earlier the disease is identified and treated, the less likely it is to develop into a fatal condition.

Second-hand smoke

smoke exhaled by smokers polluting the environment of others, whether ’smokers’ or ’non-smokers’, which they are forced to inhale.


the absence of physical activity.


the realization or fulfilment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need (Maslow).


a sense of who you are.


engaging in activities for one’s enjoyment or intrinsic motivation.


the belief that one will be able to carry out one’s plans successfully; a term proposed by Bandura (1977) and thought to be associated with positive health behaviours.


a personality trait consisting of positive self-regard, originally proposed by Rosenberg (1965).


the process by which individuals monitor and adjust their medication on an ongoing basis.

Self-regulatory model

this model suggests that health-related practices or coping responses are influenced by patients’ beliefs or representations of the illness. These illness representations have a certain structure.

Sensation seeking

a personality trait or type that is characterized by a strong desire for new sensations.

Sense of coherence

a personality trait originally proposed by Antonovsky (1979) to characterize people who see their world as essentially meaningful and manageable. It is associated with coping with stress.

Sense of community

a feeling that one belongs to a group located in space and time with a common identity, history and culture.

Sex survey

a large-scale, questionnaire-based instrument that aims to provide quantifiable, descriptive data about a population’s sexual habits.


the scientific study of human sexual behaviour.

Sexual behaviour

any activity that stimulates sexual arousal for pleasure or procreation.

Sexual dimorphism

differences in appearance between males and females, such as shape, size and structure, that are caused by the inheritance of one or the other sexual pattern in the genetic material.

Sexual meanings

the significance that is attributed to sexual practices as a result of the application of socio-historically and culturally variable and changing interpretative frames.


those aspects of human experience which are influenced by and/or expressive of sexual desire and/or practice.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

infections that can be transferred from one person to another through sexual contact through vaginal or anal intercourse, kissing, oral—genital contact, and the use of sexual ’toys’ such as vibrators.

Single case experimental design

an investigation of a series of experimental manipulations on a single research participant.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms

frequently called SNPs (pronounced ’snips’), the most common type of genetic variation among people. Each SNP represents a difference in a single nucleotide. For example, a SNP may replace the nucleotide cytosine (C) with the nucleotide thymine (T) in a certain stretch of DNA. SNPs occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. They occur once in every 300 nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 10 million SNPs in the human genome. Most commonly, these variations are found in the DNA between genes. When SNPs occur within a gene or in a regulatory region near a gene, they may play a more direct role in disease by affecting the gene’s function.

Skin fold thickness

a method of determining body composition and body fat percentage using calipers at different positions on a persons’s body.

Social capital

the institutions, relationships and norms that shape the quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions. Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions that underpin a society, it is the glue that holds them together.

Social cognition

a cognitive model of social knowledge.

Social cognition models (SCMs)

theories about the relationship between social cognitions, such as beliefs and attitudes, and behaviour, which aim accurately to predict behaviour or behavioural intentions.

Social constructionism

(1) the philosophical belief that there is no single, fixed ’reality’ but a multiplicity of descriptions, each with its own unique pattern of meanings; (2) ’many potential worlds of meaning that can be imaginatively entered and celebrated, in ways which are constantly changing to give richness and value to human experience’ (Mulkay, 1991: 27—8).

Social Darwinism

the concept that competition drives social evolution.

Social inequality

being treated differently as a consequence of age, race, gender, disability, sexual preference or other attribute (see also inequality).

Social justice

the process of treating a person, group or community fairly and equally.

Social marketing

the application of consumer-oriented marketing techniques in the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes aimed towards influencing behaviour change. Social marketing draws upon concepts from behavioural theory, persuasion psychology and marketing science.

Social representation theory

a system of ideas, values and practices specific to a particular community which enables individuals to orient themselves in the world and communicate with each other.

Social support

informal and formal supportive relationships.

Socio-economic status (SES)

position or class based on occupation, education or income.

Somatic nervous system (otherwise known as the ’voluntary nervous system’)

the part of the peripheral nervous system that is associated with skeletal muscular voluntary control of body movements and afferent or sensory nerves.


the quality or state of being spiritual, with or without religious beliefs.

Stages of change

the stages of pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination in the transtheoretical model of change (TMC).


drugs used to reduce cholesterol levels.


any of a large class of organic compounds with a characteristic molecular structure containing four rings of carbon atoms (three six-membered and one five-membered), including many hormones, alkaloids and vitamins.


the process of marginalizing a group or class of people by labelling them as different and understanding them in terms of stereotypes. This results in a loss of social status and discrimination, affecting many areas of life.


being treated as an object of derision and shame purely as a consequence of others’ ignorance and prejudice.


an ambiguous term, sometimes used to refer to environmental pressure and sometimes to a particular type of response to pressure. Currently, it is often used to describe an inner state that can occur when either real or perceived demands exceed either the real or perceived capacity to cope with them.

Stress innoculation training (SIS)

a cognitive behavioural method for stress management devised by Meichenbaum (1985), focusing on changing the way in which participants appraise situations as stressful and cope with stressful events.

Stress management workshop

a training programme in stress management usually delivered to groups, frequently lasting for a whole day or a weekend, and focusing on changing the way in which participants appraise situations as stressful and cope with stressful events.

Subjective norms

the beliefs of other people about the importance of carrying out a behaviour.

Subjective validation (or personal validation)

a cognitive bias by which a person will consider a statement or another piece of information to be correct if it has any personal meaning or significance to them.

Subjective well-being (SWB)

a concept that, in plain English, would be called ’happiness’. The adjective ’subjective’ is necessary because well-being cannot be inferred from outward appearances or the objective characteristics of the person.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

the unexplained death of infants while lying in a crib or cot.


a systematic method for determining how a defined sample of participants respond to a set of standard questions attempting to assess their feelings, attitudes, beliefs or knowledge at one or more particular times.

Symmetry rule

a tendency to search for a label for bodily symptoms and to expect symptoms if we have an illness label.

Sympathetic nervous system

part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to accelerate the heart rate, constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Together with the parasympathetic nervous system, it constitutes the autonomic nervous system.

Synaptic connection

as neurotransmitters activate receptors across the synaptic cleft, the connection between the two neurones is strengthened when both neurones are active at the same time, as a result of the receptor’s signalling mechanisms.


a chronic infectious disease caused by a spirochete (Treponema pallidum), transmitted by direct contact, usually in sexual intercourse, or passed from mother to child in utero. The disease progresses through three stages characterized, respectively, by the local formation of chancres, ulcerous skin eruptions and systemic infection leading to general paresis.

Systematic review

a review of the empirical literature concerning the efficacy or effectiveness of an intervention that considers all relevant studies, taking account of quality criteria.

Systems theory approach

a theory concerned with the contextual structures, processes or relationships within communities, groups or families.

T cells (otherwise known as ’T lymphocytes’)

a type of lymphocyte (a sub-type of white blood cell) that plays a central role in cell-mediated immunity. T cells can be distinguished from other lymphocytes, such as B cells and natural killer cells, by the presence of a T-cell receptor on the cell surface. Compare with B cells.


a Chinese philosophy which views the universe as being governed by the two basic powers of yin and yang.


an empty statement consisting of simpler statements that make it logically true whether the simpler statements are true or false, e.g., Either I will wear a condom the next time I have sexual intercourse or I will not.


a system for the description, identification, nomenclature and classification of objects, organisms or interventions.


working outside the traditional workplace, using information technology and telecommunication systems.

Temperance societies

originating in the USA in the nineteenth century, these societies, of which Alcoholics Anonymous is an example, are dedicated to counteracting the harmful effects of drinking, usually advocating teetotalism.

Tension reduction hypothesis

the hypothesis that people enjoy alcohol primarily because it reduces tension (anxiety, stress), rather than as a drug which directly produces positive moods.


a general account of relationships between processes believed to influence, cause changes in, or control a phenomenon.

Theory of planned behaviour (TPB)

a theoretical model which argues that behavioural intention is controlled by attitudes, subjective norms and perceived control.

Theory of reasoned action (TRA)

a theoretical model which argues that behavioural intention is controlled by attitudes and subjective norms.

Therapeutic alliance

the relationship between a mental health practitioner and his or her client.

Thin ideal

the concept of the ideally slim female body. The common perception of this ideal is that of a slender, feminine physique with a small waist and little body fat.

(To) legitimate

to justify one’s position in the face of stigma, illness or invalidity.


controlled, directed or organized from the top using a preconceived theory or model about the processes that are expected to occur.

Total body irradiation (TBI)

a form of radiotherapy used primarily as part of the preparative regimen for haematopoietic stem cell (or bone marrow) transplantation.

Toxic environment

environmental and social conditions that promote disease, disorder and death.

Transgender (otherwise known as ’trans’)

a person whose self-identified gender does not fully align with their physical sex as assigned at birth, and who may choose to take steps to medically alter the gendered features of their body.


a description of a method or procedure that is detailed and explicit, enabling replication by another investigator.

Transtheoretical model of change (TTM)

a model of behaviour change, developed by DiClementi, Prochaska and others, which attempts to identify universal processes or stages of change, specified as pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination.


collecting evidence using different methods to provide complementary perspectives.


the main component of dietary fats and oils and the principal form in which fat is stored in the body. It is composed of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Tumour (benign or malignant)

an abnormal new mass of tissue that serves no purpose; a tumour may be malignant or non-malignant depending on whether it is life-threatening or not.

Twelve-step facilitation programme

a theraputic regime which attempts to change thinking and behaviour in a series of 12 steps, as advocated by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) (otherwise known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes)

a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. The far more common Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) (otherwise known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes)

a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar (glucose), the body’s source of fuel. In Type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin (a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into cells) or fails to produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level. More common in adults, T2DM increasingly affects children as childhood obesity is becoming more prevalent.

Type A/B personality

the Type A personality, in contrast to the Type B personality, is characterized by intense achievement motivation, time urgency and hostility.

Unconditioned stimulus (UCS)

a stimulus that evokes a response or reflex without training, e.g., a loud sound will naturally evoke a startle response.

Uncontrolled variable

a background variable that remains uncontrolled by the investigator and which may affect or bias the results of a study.


(also known as Champix) used in smoking cessation to prevent craving and withdrawal symptoms.


a plant-based diet that excludes all animal-based foods.


a diet that includes eggs and/or dairy but no other foods derived from animal sources.

Viral challenge studies

a method of studying the relationship between stress and susceptibility to infectious disease in which volunteers are deliberately exposed to minor viruses, usually colds or flu, to determine whether those who have experienced higher levels of stress prior to exposure are more likely to contract the infection.

Visceral fat

fat that accumulates in organs such as the liver that causes insulin resistance and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Vitamin D

a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, is added to others, and is available as a dietary supplement. It is produced when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.

Waist circumference

a measure of central adiposity or body fat.


the state of ’wellness’; the general state of health of an individual.

Wernicke—Korsakoff syndrome

a form of irreversible brain damage sometimes found among long-term heavy drinkers, its symptoms include extremely impaired short-term memory, confusion and visual disorders.

Withdrawal symptoms

unpleasant symptoms and craving accompanying cessation of tobacco or other drug use, e.g., uncontrolled sweating, palpitations, depression, fear or anxiety.

World Health Organization (WHO)

the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations. The Director-General of the WHO is Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, from Ethiopia.