Recently in Health Category

Health and the Theory of Planned Behavior

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

Several years ago my mother decided to improve her health by losing a significant amount of weight. She was morbidly obese, and had been for many years. In fact, I cannot remember a time when she was not extremely overweight. In her family, and by the same token, mine as well, most struggled with their weight. My mother, my father, my siblings, and even I, have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight. Diabetes plagued most of my family members. My mother's diabetes was slowly spiraling out of control as her weight and eating habits slowly deteriorated. She had been under enormous amounts of stress at work and she began to eat more than her normal, consuming vast amounts of food that affected the control of her diabetes.

During one follow-up appointment with her physician he told her that they would soon have to place her on insulin shots to control her diabetes. My mother, ever the needle phobic, was shocked. It made her realize how heavy she had become, and quite frankly scared her. She implored the doctor to help her avoid insulin at any cost. 

I've always wondered if that doctor had any faith that she would stick to the dietary, weight loss, and exercise changes he recommended. Did he look at her, and her chart, and think that she too would forsake his advice, as perhaps other patients had? 

If there was ever a time that my mother was motivated to lose weight, this was it. 

The theory of planned behavior states that the best way to alter someone's behavior is to change their intentions. In other words, our intentions define our behavior (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). For many years my mother's intentions were to find pleasure through consuming food. She does not deny this and has often attested to this same sentiment. Her intentions led to behavior that negatively affecter her health and led to a health crisis.

Behavioral intentions are guided by three things, according to the authors of Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems: attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms about the behavior, and lastly, perceived control over the behavior . According to the theory of planned behavior, for my mother to experience behavior change her intentions had to change via these three things. 

First, her attitude towards her overeating and lack of exercise changed. Obviously she was motivated to change her habits, but her attitude changed as well. She knew overeating and not exercise were going to kill her or cause her adverse effects and she was motivated to change. Her decision to lose weight was also affected by her perceptions of what others thought, or the subjective norms concerning this behavior. She knew how her doctor felt, and for years, she had heard from family members how concerned they were about her steadily increasing weight. These things motivated her change in behavior as well. Lastly, for change to occur she had to believe she could lose weight via a diet and exercise regime. For years, this had been her biggest deterrent. She had tried many times to change her eating habits only to fail and feel worse about herself. She had been convinced she could not do it. This time, her attitude had changed. She was more aware and accepting of what others thought about her weight gain and its health affects. She felt that she could finally lose weight.

When my mother began to lose weight she was around 350 pounds. Walking was tiring for her. Her joints hurt, her knees hurt, she felt physically poor most of the time. She did not feel comfortable joining a gym and so she began to research what her options were: remember, she was motivated, her behavioral intentions had changed, just as the theory of planned behavior would predict. She found a DVD program whose premise was walking to lose weight, right there in place, in front of the TV. When she first started she would do 10 minutes 3 times a day. During her lunch hour at her school she would walk the hallways. Soon, she had increased this to 20 minutes 3 times a day, and finally to 30 minutes twice a day, with a 10 to 20 minute walk during her lunch hour. Her eating habits changed, and although she admitted that most nights she fell asleep hungry and in tears, she stuck to it. 

Fast forward eight years and the woman who I had always known as obese could swap size 8 clothes with me. She has maintained her eating habits and continues to walk to keep weight gain at bay. She typically takes a long walk in the morning time, typically a few miles. She enjoys the things her weight loss has brought her, including better health outcomes. In fact, other than monitoring her blood sugar she does not take diabetes medication at all. Her blood pressure normalized as well. 

My mother's weight loss has always been incredibly inspiring to me. It was not an easy journey, or a quick one, but her attitude towards weight gain, and her ability to see herself as in control, have led to lasting changes.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. 

Health Belief Models

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

In health psychology, the focus is much more on the biopsychosocial model of health than on the biomedical model. This is because the biomedical model covers only the biological aspects of illness, and ignores the psychological and social factors that are also involved. Stemming from the biopsychosocial model is the health belief model. This model pertains to the likelihood a person believes that he/she has of becoming sick, as well as the preventative measures a person takes to avoid becoming sick in the first place.

It is clear that the health belief model is very important in several ways. If it weren't, there would not be small children coming to the pediatrician with infections of things like measles or small pox. People who choose to not vaccinate their children are only half of the problem. The other half of the problem is folks (like Christian scientists) who believe that medicine is not what is needed to return to a healthy state of being when they are sick.

The health belief model is very important when discussing problems such as refusal to vaccinate children. Such parents believe that this primary preventative measure is unnatural and will not only be devoid of benefit for their children, but also that it could have detrimental effects. The reason that this belief is problematic is because of its glaring inconsistency with modern science. Vaccines will not give children the disease they are meant to inoculate against, nor will autism be caused by them, end of story.

The health belief model is also a critical component to consider with regard to people who will get sick and then refuse treatment that is supported by empirical evidence to produce positive effects. If someone believes in an omniscient higher power, how could the higher power be omniscient if it created cancer but not a way to treat cancer? I am not trying to start a theological debate. I am merely pointing out that cogent reasoning does not support refusals to take medicine.

The Impact of Stress on the Body

| 7 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

The Impact of Stress on the Body


The negative effects that stress has on our physical well-being should be an easy connection for a person to make.  However, when we are going through a stressful period in our life we have so much on our mind that we don't make that connection that is why we are having health issues.  It could be the reverse and a person has been diagnosed with an a serious illness and of course it is stressful.  If we don't seek some form of psychological counseling to find a way to relieve the stress we don't recognize that the more we are stressed by the situation the worse our physical health becomes.   Depending on the health issue it can be like the metaphor, which came for first the chicken or the egg.  

The damage that chronic stress can have not only on our mental state, but our physical well-being can manifest itself in a variety of ways.  Stress can affect our body starting out slowly with headaches and being tired all the time or having stomach issues.  Stress can affect our mind and we become depression, forgetfulness or anxious.  It can also affect our behavior and we turn to alcohol, drugs or food as a form of self-medication.  If we don't seek help for our emotional well-being these symptoms lead to bigger health and mental issue.  According to a research study done by Baum and Posluszny, "Research increasingly suggests a strong link between how people think, feel, and behave and how well they withstand illness and poor health."  (1999) This is why taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of physical health.  The connection between the mind and body makes maintenance of both crucial for our overall well-being.




Baum, A., & Posluszny, D. M. (1999). Health psychology: Mapping biobehavioral contributions to health and

    illness. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 137-63. Retrieved from

Stress and Health: One Experience

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

"In Loving Memory of George L. Bryant" read the heading of the paper folded like a little, white book which was shoved into my hand as we were shuffled into the "Family Room" at the funeral home. There was a mildew-stench in the old building mixed with sweat, hot breath, perfumes, and fresh flowers--a truly dreadful combination--in the air, or what was left of it. The fragrance cocktail hung around like a stagnant cloud making me feel suffocated and nauseous.

The room was dimly lit creating a depressing ambiance, as if anybody needed help with that considering the occasion for our presence there. The close proximity of people, heavy breathing, and seemingly endless embraces made the room feel humid and it gave me goose bumps because my body was so cold. Unfortunately it was not cold enough to numb the burning pain I could feel in my chest, rising to my throat and finally erupting down my face. The tears felt hot like streams of molten salt on my cheeks and they stung the delicate skin under my eyes which had been repeatedly abused by an unforgiving tissue. Everything looked hazy through the tears, everyone's face seemed distorted and unfamiliar, but the feelings of stress I had were all too familiar.

Stress is defined as "a negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes that directed either toward altering the stressful even or accommodating to its effects" (Taylor, 2009, p. 139). This funeral was the conclusion to a stressful ordeal that had lasted three months for me. Perhaps it is better described as a sad intermission to the next phase since many of the feelings I had then still persist today.

It had begun in the spring 2012 with a text from my father-in-law, George, although I called him Dad. "What are your thoughts about suicide," he asked me. I wanted to be cautious, as to not scare him off from talking with me if he wanted to because I knew he had been struggling with depression for years. I gave him my honest opinion though, "It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," I told him emphatically. These types of conversations between us lasted for a few months and then suddenly they became significantly less frequent.

It was not long after that when I received a call asking if I had heard from George. I had not. It took three days to find him--the hotel manager must have experienced his own stress when he discovered there was a good explanation for his patron not checking out on time.

My brother-in-law called me immediately after speaking with the police. "He took himself" was all he said and I literally hit the floor gasping for air. I felt as though I was suffocating and the world was spinning and crashing all around me.

It has been said that "adverse aftereffects of stress, such as decrease in performance and attention span, often persist long after the stressful event itself is no longer present" (Taylor, 2009, p. 150) and I found this to be true for my experience. The psychological effects started immediately after George first asked me about suicide. I even picked up smoking again a little bit, a drag here and there, shortly after our talks began but I did not make the connection.

I am still smoking a little even after all this time. It was not an easy habit to break the first time. My situation is evidence that stressful life experiences can lead to health compromising behaviors which are not limited to cigarettes for some people.

I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with a psychiatrist who worked with me on different techniques to cope with the stress I still feel. There are support groups out there as well but I have yet to take advantage of those however. Most of the strength I have gained is through the social, emotional, and informational support from my family--we have all worked together to help each other.



Taylor, S. E. (2012). Health psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

This is a link to the news broadcast when George went missing:

This is a link to his obituary:

A link to suicide hotlines by state:

A link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

A link to the National Institute of Health's information on suicide, stress, and depression:

Novel Channels for Health Intervention in Applied Social Psychology

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

In the endeavor to improve human health, applied social psychology clearly has a great deal to offer. While the healthcare system in the United States is primarily organized around the treatment of acute health conditions, chronic diseases account for 75% of healthcare costs and by far the greatest percentage of preventable deaths (Thrall, 2005).

In contrast to acute diseases which typically have a single cause, a time-delimited duration and a specific associated therapy, chronic diseases can be seen as 'system conditions' (Holman & Lorig, 2004). They are often characterized by gradual onset, are not amenable to a single cure, and tend to involve multiple bodily systems.

In addition, the etiology, progression, and management of a chronic disease is strongly influenced by an individual's behavior. Self-management of a chronic condition is critical to improving the long-term prognosis; unfortunately, adherence to treatment and management protocols among chronic disease patients is typically very poor (Taylor, 2012).

Psychosocial interventions that seek to promote improved self-management of chronic disease have demonstrated promise (Lorig & Holman, 2003; Weingarten et al., 2002). Particularly intriguing are self-management interventions that utilize information technology to promote health behavior change. These are typically referred to as eHealth (e=electronic) or mHealth (m=mobile) programs.

Not only can e- and mHealth interventions be scaled to serve large populations at low cost, they can also provide highly tailored experiences, ensure message consistency, collect rich physical and behavioral data streams, and provide health services in a variety of contexts. However, particularly in the mHealth space, the pace of development has far exceeded the pace of research (Sherry & Ratzan, 2012).

This year, for the first time, the FDA has approved a commercial cell-phone based behavioral intervention that promotes self-management behaviors among diabetes patients (Dolan, 2013). The exciting part of this news is that the app, WellDoc's BlueStar program, is reimbursable as a treatment. This means that doctors can 'prescribe' BlueStar just like any other therapy, and the prescription will be covered by many insurers.

Digital health intervention programs are not without many potential pitfalls. In research contexts, program engagement is highly variable, with many participants electing to simply ignore the intervention. Some work has been done to identify interactive strategies that program developers can employ to promote engagement among intervention users (Kelders, Kok, Ossebaard, & Van Gemert-Pijnen, 2012). Also, the persistent collection of data via ubiquitious computing devices such as smartphones raises a number of privacy and security concerns, particularly in light of recent revelations regarding the near-omnipresent monitoring of electronic signals in this country.

However, these concerns aside, digital technology offers a promising channel for health communication and intervention. In order for this field to move forward, more research must be conducted to better understand how interventions can optimally promote user engagement and how the mechanisms of behavior change intersect with the unique opportunities afforded by the technology.

Dolan, B. (2013). WellDoc explains how physicians will prescribe, not just recommend, BlueStar. MobiHealth News.

Holman, H., & Lorig, K. (2004). Patient self-management: a key to effectiveness and efficiency in care of chronic disease. Public health reports, 119(3), 239-43. doi:10.1016/j.phr.2004.04.002

Kelders, S. M., Kok, R. N., Ossebaard, H. C., & Van Gemert-Pijnen, J. E. W. C. (2012). Persuasive system design does matter: a systematic review of adherence to web-based interventions. Journal of medical Internet research, 14(6), e152. doi:10.2196/jmir.2104

Lorig, K. R., & Holman, H. R. (2003). Self-management education: history, definition, outcomes, and mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 26(1), 1-7.

Sherry, J. M., & Ratzan, S. C. (2012). Measurement and evaluation outcomes for mHealth communication: don't we have an app for that? Journal of health communication, 17 Suppl 1(sup1), 1-3. doi:10.1080/10810730.2012.670563

Taylor, S. E. (2012). Health Psychology (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thrall, J. H. (2005). Prevalence and costs of chronic disease in a health care system structured for treatment of acute illness. Radiology, 235(1), 9-12. doi:10.1148/radiol.2351041768

Weingarten, S. R., Henning, J. M., Badamgarav, E., Knight, K., Hasselblad, V., Gano, A., & Ofman, J. J. (2002). Interventions used in disease management programmes for patients with chronic illness-which ones work? Meta-analysis of published reports. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 325(7370), 925.

Chronic Disease and Stress

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

Depression affects millions of people. There are many different reasons why people become depressed. Some involve life events while others are inherited factors. One other reason is when a person develops a chronic disease. A chronic disease is defined as a disease that persists over a long period. The symptoms of a chronic disease are sometimes less severe than those of the acute phase of the same disease. Chronic disease may be progressive, result in complete or partial disability, or even lead to death. Examples of chronic disease include diabetes mellitus, emphysema, and arthritis. (Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition, 2009) Studies have shown that there is a comorbity between diabetes mellitus and depression. There is a 40% increased risk of depression in people with diabetes (Campayo, Gómez-Biel, Lobo, 2010). I can relate to this topic because my mother was a diabetic, type II, and I watched her battle episodes of depression. Most episodes were triggered by high glucose levels, complicated illnesses, and stress. While she took medications, it was only a tool to help her be more controlled. She needed to learn better techniques in controlling her stress levels, glucose levels, and stay healthier.

It is important to find ways to lower your stress levels which can lead to a healthier life. I read an article "Handling Stress Techniques" (Pollar, 1998), which lists healthy tips such as exercising every day. Take time in the morning and afternoon, at least 15 minutes, if you are working to help you de-stress. Also, deep-breathing exercises to help you relax at night or in those stressful situations. In my mother's case, she saw a professional, but she also used many of these techniques as well. I have also had those stressful experiences where you just need to take a moment from that busy environment and breathe deep, walk away from the stress, and re-group. In the end, it could keep you healthier and happier.


Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition, 2009

Campayo, Antonio; Gómez-Biel,Carlos H.; Lobo, Antonio, 2010 "Diabetes and Depression"

Pollar, Odette, New Pittsburgh Courier, City Edition(Pittsburgh, PA) 01 Apr1998: B1,"Handling Stressful Techniques"

Health, stress, and the soultion

| 7 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
Stress is all to familiar with each of us. We find stress in our everyday lives such as our relationships, assignments, maybe money, or a great many other things. I personally have much on my plate to be stressed about I currently hold a full time job, I'm a full time student, and I am graduating this semester. There are minor and major annoyances in our lives that sometimes cannot be avoided that cause us stress. The key to surviving stress is to learn to manage it.

Stress is defined by the APA as the pattern of specific and nonspecific responses an organism makes to stimulus events that disturb its equilibrium and tax or exceed its ability to cope. However, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) define stress as "a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being". This definition might make more sense in situation which we are using it.  Lazarus and Folkman created a model that will help us to understand the process we go through when we are stressed, this is called the transactional model of stress. This model consists of a stressor, appraisal, coping, and finally the health outcome. When we encounter a stressor in our life such as an assignment we appraise or judge the situation where we decide if it is stressful. Then, if we appraised the situation as stressful we move to coping where we diffuse the situation or reduce the stress. People's coping techniques can vary widely. The last step in the model is health outcomes (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984)

Unfortunately stress can wreck havoc on your body. In the book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" Robert Sapolsky explains in detail what stress does to our bodies and why. Take a zebra who encounters a stressor such as being chased by a lion, the body has a natural stress response and your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and sends signals to your muscles to get to moving and your heart beats with increased force, your heart rate and blood pressure rises so blood can be distributed properly and your body conserves water. After the stressor your body goes back to its normal state. However, imagine that every time you get stressed this happens to your body, it just so happens that it will cause cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is a number one killer in the United States. (Sapolsky, 2004)

There is good news, however. Learning stress management techniques can reduce stress significantly. It's really quite simple, eating a healthy diet, exercising, meditation, social support, and having control and predictability in your life are all ways to manage and reduce your stress. Doing some or all of the items listed above on a regular basis will have a positive effect on your health and reduce your risk or cardiovascular disease or other illnesses due to a lowered immune system that can also be caused by stress.


Lazarus, R. S., Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don't get ulcers (3rd ed.). New York: Times Books.

Health and Applied Social Psychology

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks
The topic of health is especially important in applied social psychology.  By changing health habits, one can greatly change psychological issues and prevent illness from occurring.  There are a number of different variables which affect health including, eating habits, exercise, smoking, substance abuse and stress.  These can all have a great impact on health and psychology and it is important to use proper health promotion in order to change health habits. Health promotion is a way of encouraging people to avoid smoking, substance abuse and unhealthy eating habits.  Health promotion also encourages a person to exercise frequently, eat healthy and rest regularly.  (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012)

The direct connection between the mind and body is especially interesting to me because I have witnessed how they interact with one another, first hand.  Growing up, I was always stressed out about little things because I was known as a "perfectionist."  Everything always had to be done correctly or else I would become very upset.  At just seven, I began experiencing stress induced migraines caused by my drive for everything to be perfect.  I had to find a way to manage the amount of stress in my life because it was causing me to have such bad migraines.  Finally by seventeen, I had found my happy medium with this and noticed that stress relieving activities such as exercising really helped me cope with this.  

Following the migraines, at nineteen I began suffering from many stomach issues.  I was diagnosed with many different things, prescribed over fifty different medications and went through many tests until finally going through surgery to have my gallbladder removed at twenty three.  All of this was caused from stress and unhealthy eating habits.  When the surgeon removed my gallbladder he was in shock.  His exact words were "her gallbladder was chronically inflamed, covered in gallstones and looked like a gallbladder that I would remove from an elderly, overweight woman with gallbladder disease," yet I was just 23, weighing 120 pounds and looked as if I was in great shape.  The years of eating unhealthy without exercising or managing stress and taken a great toll on my digestive track.  I was frequently sick with colds and the flu and it took me months to overcome an illness during this time. Following the surgery, I began eating healthier, exercising regularly and managing stress through walking and suddenly it was as if I had never endured any illness

By changing my health habits and managing my stress levels, my brain was able to relax which in return allowed my digestive system to calm down because the brain and body are directly linked.  Along with this, the exercise increased my happiness and the healthy eating increased my overall health.  The doctors have taken me off of the anxiety medication as well because I no longer suffer from severe anxiety.  Now, I no longer have from stomach issues, my stress is almost non existent and I am rarely sick.  It was incredible to see the tremendous impact that health had on my overall well being and body, especially at such a young age.  Health habits can change a person's stress level, anxiety, depression and even body illnesses; I am living proof. 


Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A, & Coutts, L. M. (2012).  Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.

Stress and Health

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

.          Last semester in Psych 441 or also known as health psychology we had a lesson that dealt with stress and health and how they interplay with one another. What I learned from that lesson had a lot to do with our applied psychology this week on the topic of health and stress. An individual's health can be affected by many different factors such as family, peers, social influences, and stress. I have had times throughout my life where all of these factors have played a role in affecting my health whether if it was in a good or bad manner.

            Stress is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives, some people experience it more than others and some experience it to a greater degree than others. Stress can impact a person's life if it is not fixed and long term effects of stress can lead to illness because the immune system is weakened. If two people are exposed to the same environmental stressor, but only one of them gets sick there are reasons why the one individual may fall ill and the other did not. When we talk about being exposed to an illness there are reasons one might get sick and another person may not.

            One reason may be is that if a person does not take in enough vitamins and minerals either through dietary supplements or just eating the right foods (healthy diet) to help support immune function; it could lead to getting sick. Another reason could be if a person does not get enough sleep, having limited sleep can weaken your immune system and if exposed to an illness then you might get sick. But when we talk about stress being the cause of being sick rather than a germ or illness it's kind of the same concept. Whether you get sick or not is how you handle the situation the person who is exposed to stress and learns to cope and find ways to calm the situation most likely will not get sick. The person who is dealing with stress and very overwhelmed is mostly likely to get sick whether if it's just a temporary stomach ache, flu, or something to a greater degree. 

            My experience with stress started last year when I made the campus switch from Penn State Harrisburg to Penn State World Campus. The campus switch and different learning approaches managed to make behind on school work until I got used to the new learning experience. When I missed a few deadlines I was very overwhelmed and worried that I might get a bad grade or even fail the course. As this was the first time in my life where I had to deal with such as stressful situation I did not know how to properly cope with stress. During this last fall semester around the end of the semester I suffered from anxiety which was caused by the large amount of stress I was dealing with. After taking Psych 441 or Health Psychology in the following semester I learned ways to cope with my stressful situations and my anxiety decreased significantly and today I do not suffer from any sort of anxiety because of the coping techniques that I have learned.


Zumba Health

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

Trending across countries, Zumba is an exercise program that's making its way into the hearts and lives of many who seek spiritual, psychological, and physical health. The bio-psychosocial model helps to explain health and illness by determining psychological, biological, and social factors (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts).  There are different ways that social factors impact health. Zumba positively affects people's physical and mental health by helping cope with stress, staying physically fit, improving self- esteem, and having fun.

Social factors impact health through socioeconomic factors such as by being influenced socially by friends or family. The people around us may engage in certain behaviors that we then adopt depending on what they believe to be approved behaviors (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). How we cope with stress and illness depends on some level by our social factors because the presence of certain people may affect our health positively or negatively. People make seek an appraisal to a stressor as a judgment of how to respond to stress such as taking a Zumba class to relieve stress (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Zumba can be used as emotion focused coping (deals with issue indirectly & to control emotions) but not as problem focused coping (which focuses on dealing with the issue).

Zumba created by Beto Perez is a dance- based fitness program that can help people lose weight by lifting moods, improving physical fitness and improving the general well- being of its participants. CNN reports a woman named Ashlee who weighed 330lbs. at the age of 21 (Wilson, 2013). However, through Zumba she managed to lose more than 123lbs. dancing to the Latin- inspired fitness class that blends international music with booty shaking that can burn up to 650 calories (Wilson, 2013)! Ashlee experiences different Zumba classes by going at least 5 times a week for an hour with different Zumba instructors.   Zumba influences cross culturally by bringing Latin, Hindi, & other different kinds of music to exercising.

LA Fitness is a gym that offers a variety of Zumba classes that range in difficulty from easy to expert levels. I speak from experience not only as an employee of LA Fitness but also as an avid fan and participant of Zumba. The exercise program not only helps promote network support which provides a sense of membership in a group with similar interests and social support which provides emotional and esteem support (Schnedier, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Clay football players hold a Zumba-thon for a good cause and enjoyed themselves (Lathrop, 2013). The football team raised money for the Secret Sister's Society which helps provide mammograms for women in need. See the video Zumba helps contribute to good health by means of social support, stress coping, and physical fitness. For information about Zumba or LA Fitness visit:


Zumba Pink.jpg  


Fitness International. 2103.

Lathrop, Katie. 2013. Clay Football players Zumba for a cause. Fox28.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology (2nd

ed.). USA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Wilson, Jacque, 2013. Zumba helps woman drop 123 pounds.


Zumba Fitness. 2013.

Health and social psychology

| 3 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
Working in health care, I very often get to see social psychology in work.  I work in women's health, and it's very easy to see how women, especially, can be effected by the messages portrayed in media and by the professionals they trust. 

Of particular interest to me was the study mentioned by Schneider on page 174.  The study was conducted by Nathanson and Beck and they studied contraceptive-seeking behaviors in teenage women.  I can look at the concentration of my teenage population and see who they are at the office with.  The majority of my patients are either alone or with a mother or other female influence.  A smaller, but still significant proportion come with a friend. Another small proportion are accompanied by a boyfriend who usually does not go in the room with them, but instead sits in the waiting room in discomfort.  The smallest population, approximately 1 in 10, come with their fathers.  I've noticed that these girls tend to not have a female perspective in their life.  Although these numbers may not exactly match the study results, the general population of my patients are older, and the economic status is a bit better than other offices in the area, which may affect the company they bring with them.

It's also "fun" to note how the doctors in my practice moderate their "speeches" to the patients they're with.   With the younger girls, the doctors are more frank and down to earth, often using "fear tactics" about pregnancy and STDs.  With the older population, the doctors are more like friends, discussing their marriages, children, problems, etc.   With the most elderly women, our doctors are more likely to maintain a much more professional demeanor.

The behavior changes in the doctors based upon their patient is an interesting study in social psychology.  Along with their demeanor changes, the doctors usually provide more written information to the older population and the elderly, and more discussion with the younger population.  These actions show that the doctors know what is going to work for each particular demographic.

It's also important to note that although we cater to women, we address other issues.  After all, a women who is mentally unhappy can, and usually will, manifest with physical symptoms, some of which do not resolve until the mental distress resolves.  Our entire office is sensitive to mental issues, particularly with women's health.  Infertility, miscarriages, cancer and STD diagnoses are standard par for us, and we often alter our behaviors to cater to the patients we know are going through those issues.   
A person can not be mentally unhealthy and physically healthy.  Your brain affects a lot of your health, even if you do not think about it.  A mentally worn out, stressed out brain can make you feel tired, or have a headache, etc.


Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A, & Coutts, L. M. (2012).  Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems.  2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.

Health Heather Schwan

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

   Our mind and our body go hand in hand when it comes to our mental/physical wellness.  One in good shape without the other in good shape is a problem.  One important aspect when it comes to our body's health helping our mental health is our eating habits.  Our eating habits are a major contributor when it comes to physical ailments.  It is actually visibly noticeable to see how well a person's health is doing due to their eating habits.  When we see a person who is fit or average for their height and body we see that a lot of the time that person comes off much more happy and stable mentally.  When we someone who is overweight or obese they tend to be less happy and their self control in impaired.  The reason for this is that when a person has unhealthy eating habits their eating is out of control and makes their body physically unhealthy.  This has an impact on their mood, exercise and their social interactions making them mentally unhealthy also.  That is when we see someone who is overweight start to change their eating habits, workout an lose weight they instantly become much more mentally stable.  They regain their confidence and become more social and active making their brain healthy as well. 

    Another way we see health affect mental health is stress levels.  It is inevitable that we all have stress in our everyday lives, some more than others.  Some of us find situations more stressful than others, and sometimes situations are just stressful in general  We all need to find ways to cope with these stressful situations.  Some of these coping strategies would be yoga, nature walks, communication with friends about the stress, or even therapy.  These ways of coping are healthy and will help reduce stress, this creating good mental health keeping us in control. 

    Another form of body and mental health relation is substance abuse.   There are many people in our world that practice substance abuse and this has a terrible impact on mental health.  The reason for this is that when a person has substance abuse issues it is not just them controlling their mind and urges, it is the substance as well.  Most of the time the person becomes addicted to the feeling and the substance they are using making it hard to stop.  The drug they use or drugs affects their health in many ways and as they keep using them they become dependent on the drug and loose control of their self turning their world upside down in a negative way.  They way to cope with this is usually rehab to get their abuse issue and mental health back on track (Schneider, Gruman, Coutte, 2012).


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. 

            In the summer semester of 2011, I took a course through Penn State World Campus called Introduction to Well-Being and Positive Psychology, or PSYCH 243.  Throughout this week's Lesson 5 reading in Applied Social Psychology, our book's authors present the question "how can psychology be used to promote healthy choices?".  This brought my back to the summer of 2011 when I recalled an activity I had to do for PSYCH 243.  The activity was about stress management and how we can use a psychological method to reduce our stress and anxiety.

            Everyone has some form of stress in their life, whether it be something as small as forgetting your grocery list at home to a more serious life stressor such as losing a loved one, or losing your job.  According to Schneider Gruman and Coutts, it's not always clear why certain events bother us more than others, or what we should do to manage these stressors.  The activity I did in PSYCH 243 is similar to the transactional model of stress, appraisal, and coping, which is based on the idea that we experience stress from ongoing transactions with the environment and that the way in which we appraise or evaluate events can trigger stressful reactions (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

            The activity used a method called Stress and Anxiety Management through Worry Exposure.  This method focuses on presenting a stressor, for example: I am worried I will not finish all of my school work by my deadline.  The next step includes visualizing the worst possible outcome which you feel will come from that stressor, for example: during my visualization I pictured not completing my assignments on time resulting in not getting points for them. I went on to picture then even failing a class because of this.  The final step is to then visualize an alternate outcome to reduce your stress level, for example: I imagined clearing my day and working towards getting both assignments completed. I had my husband do some of the household chores so I had more time. I pictured I got good scores on both assignments because I put into a lot of time and effort into them.

            You rate your anxiety level at the beginning of the activity with my rating being 80 out of 100, and then you rate it again after the alternate outcome visualization, mine being reduced down to a 40.  Like the transactional model of stress, this method allowed me to develop a coping strategy to reduce my stress and allowed me to regulate my emotions to reduce the stressful activity.  The stress and anxiety management through worry exposure model is also similar to the emotion-focused coping method in which people attempt to control their emotions in order to minimize the stress from a situation (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). I often find myself using this type of method with daily life stressors when I begin to feel anxiety or stress and find that it does help me in reducing it greatly. 



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. 

Applied Social Psychology and Health

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

            Over the summer, I had the privilege of taking PSYCH 441 or Health Psychology through the Penn State World Campus. As I was reading over the course notes and required readings for this week's assignments in Applied Social Psychology, I couldn't help but be reminded of information I learned in PSYCH 441 about the effect a good social support system can have on people struggling with depression. People with depression can benefit from socialization in many ways. . Supportive relationships are important for overall health regardless of whether a person has depression or not. Talk-therapy is one example of a social atmosphere which can help depressed individuals. Support groups can also be beneficial. A lack of social networks can increase a person's risk for developing depression. However, people with depression also tend to be less interested in social events. This tendency to isolate can therefore become part of a vicious cycle. One way people can gain some of the benefits socialization can have on depression is by getting a pet.

            Pets can assist in improving the health of people suffering with depression for many reasons. First, pets provide unconditional love which can be very uplifting. Further, studies have shown pets can have a positive effect on mood while decreasing tension (Thompson, 2011). Next, the responsibility of owning a pet can help add purpose to a person's life. Pets also tend to increase a person's level of physical activity (Thompson, 2011). Physical activity can greatly improve both mental and physical health. Additionally, this physical activity is often in the form of a walk or a trip to the park which facilitates socialization. In all of these ways, the social relationship between pets and their owners can help reduce depression and improve overall health.

            The various studies which have been conducted on the positive effects owning a pet can have on people are not isolated to their ability to assist in depression. Pets can also help with other psychological disorders and provide comfort to people with chronic conditions or terminal illnesses. I am sure many of us have heard of service dogs going to hospitals to help cheer up patients. This is a real-life example of social psychological principles improving the health of people.

            Because health is multi-faceted and involves the mind and the body, psychology cannot be left out of discussions about health. The mind and the body are interconnected; therefore it is important for people to take care of both entities. Keeping a healthy social life or owning a pet are only two ideas social psychology has contributed to the discussion regarding health. I look forward to seeing social psychology influence our view of health more and more as the field of applied social psychology expands.


Thompson, D. (2012). Pet therapy and depression. Everyday health.

Better Together: The Benefits of Social Support

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks


I'm not really much of a Beatle's fan, but my daughter is, and so this means I listen to them quite a lot when she plays "her" music (which, now that she is 13, is all the time). Recently, I found myself humming the tune to "With a Little Help From My Friends" (Lennon & McCartney, 1967), and looked up the lyrics just out of curiosity.

What would you do if I sang out of tune?

Would you stand up and walk out on me? 
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song, 
and I'll try not to sing out of key.


(Chorus :)

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends

Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends


What do I do when my love is away? 
Does it worry you to be alone? 
How do I feel by the end of the day? 
Are you sad because you're on your own?




Do you need anybody?

 I need somebody to love.

Could it be anybody?

I want somebody to love.


Would you believe in a love at first sight? 
Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time. 
What do you see when you turn out the light? 
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.




Though I am quite sure that John (Lennon) and Paul (McCartney) weren't thinking about Social Psychology when they wrote the song together, it does highlight some important findings related to social support, or, as we commonly refer to them: our friendships.


As humans, we are innately social beings; we come into the world programmed to respond and relate to others (Leary, 1990). Even infants turn their heads in response to the sound of a human voice. When we are children, much of our development is based upon interactions and relationships with those around us - family members and friends - our social support system. As we grow older, the importance of these relationships -especially with our peers- does not diminish. Rather, as studies have shown, our friendships actually serve to protect us from a myriad of mental, emotional and physical health issues (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010; Leary, 1990). Thus, our friendships are not just a luxury; they are a necessity for healthy lives.

Healthy peer relationships can increase our sense of personal efficacy, which is our individual sense of how competent we are able to successfully achieve our personal goals - this is especially true for adolescents, for whom, social relationships are key to personal development (Thoits, 1986; Karademas, 2006). High self-efficacy is closely related to high self-esteem, which is integral to the formation of healthy relationships (Karademas, 2006; Leary, 1990). When we feel good about ourselves, we tend to attract others; so, it could be said that the more friends you have, the more you'll get.

Research also indicates that social support reduces, or buffers, the adverse psychological impacts of stressful life events (Thoits, 1986). Specifically, our positive relationships with others can significantly lower the risk of psychological disturbance (e.g. grief, despair, depression) in response to stressful events. Key to these healthy relationships and their effectiveness in attenuating stress, are empathy and similarity (Thoits, 1986). Empathy is essentially the way in which we understand and respond to others, whereas similarity is the way in which we identify and relate to others. Thoits (1986) states:

"Others' empathetic understanding provides reassurance that emotional reactions are valid and expectable, even if reactions are simultaneously socially undesirable and potentially dysfunctional" which in turn, "enables the individual to ventilate or discuss those feelings freely, a crucial first step for many individuals that reduces pent-up tension" (p. 420).

Friends protect against loneliness, and of course, during times of happiness or success, they are able to cheer us on (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010; Leary, 1990). Moreover, these positive interactions protect against anxiety, jealousy and depression (Leary, 1990).


In addition to boosting emotional health, positive social relationships have also been reported to have a mitigating effect on other health issues such as breast cancer, post-natal depression, and diabetes. In fact, researchers have found that people with strong relationships had a 50% greater chance for survival, regardless of their age, sex, initial health status or cause of death, when compared to those with fewer friends (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010). In short: we really do get by with a little help from our friends.


And, that is something to sing about.




Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review (C. Brayne, Ed.). PLoS Medicine, 7(7), E1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316

Karademas, E. (2006). Self-efficacy, social support and well-beingThe mediating role of optimism. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(6), 1281-1290. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.10.019

Leary, M. R. (summer 1990). Responses to social exclusion: Social anxiety, jealousy, loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(2), 221. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from

Lennon, J., & McCartney, P. (1967). With a little help from my friends. On Sgt. Pepper's lonely hearts club band. Abbey Road Studios: George Martin.

Thoits, P. A. (1986). Social support as coping assistance. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(4), 416-423. Retrieved July 31, 2013, from


Positive well-being can be defined as " optimal adjustment to life and positive mental health" (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012, p. 380) meaning that one is of the right mind and in the right position to handle most of life's curveballs. This state of positive well-being is a major contributor to our overall state of health. It has been found that expressing gratitude, spending money on others, and sharing experiences help contribute to the state of positive well-being.
Prosocial behaviors, or behaviors that benefit someone other than yourself, have been linked to increases in positive well-being such as increased happiness, reduced mortality, and increased immune function. Behaviors including expressing gratitude influence the relationships and interactions we have with others. Research has shown that those who experience and extend gratitude are happier and healthier. When prosocial behaviors are not utilized, for example gratitude is not expressed, peeps pick up it and positive well-being is not increased (Surprising Connections, 2013). Ingratitude and other negative emotions can derail well-being by causing rifts in social relationships.
Eudaimonia, another term for well-being and happiness, can also be achieved by spending money on purchases that make you feel good. By this I don't mean buying that DVD you've been dying to see. More happiness and well-being are gained from making purchases for others as opposed to making purchases for ourselves. Research shows that the reason behind this experience is that the person buying for another feels as though they are wealthier than they actually are. Poor people have been shown to give away more money so that these perceived feelings of wealth are increased (Surprising Connections, 2013). Perhaps this could even be called emotional wealth. The same is true for giving time to others. Spending time helping another person is beneficial and creates perceived feelings of increases in time (Surprising Connections, 2013).
It also matters what you buy when spending money on yourself. When you purchase an experience such as a day at an amusement park or a honeymoon in an exotic place, it evokes more feelings of happiness. Material items such as clothes or cars do not have the same lasting feelings of happiness. The reasoning behind this is that experiences allow us to share with others by telling stories. Basically, experience purchases facilitate social interactions.
In conclusion, showing gratitude, spending time and money on someone other than yourself, and sharing your experiences through storytelling can help enhance overall well-being and happiness which in turn increases over health. For future consideration; How could we create more opportunities to utilize these well-being enhancing methods.


Surprising Connections Between Our Well-being and Giving, Getting, and Gratitude. (2013). Retrieved from
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A, & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

How do we deal with stress when we don't even know we are stressed out?

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
I have times when I feel run down, like I am about to get a cold or for a whole week I am just exhausted. I think of what has been going on in my life on a daily basis and cannot put my finger on why I am so tired or why I am getting sick. Is this just stress? That is what my Mother tells me. 

As you go through your daily life, you just deal with what you have to deal with. You take care of what you have to take care of and sometimes you can recognize when something stressed you out, but sometimes you cannot recognize it. We as human beings keep plugging a way at whatever comes. It could be a stressful semester, or meetings at work because of a project, or being worried about what kind of job you are going to get after you graduate..right fellow students!? How do we keep plugging away?

Stress and coping go hand in hand. To cope, you need to feel stressed and to get through the stress, you need ways to cope. There are so many factors that can play into why we feel stress. I am finding out in my older age (I am not that old, just stressing the fact that I am not in my mid-twenties anymore) that sleep is very important in coping with stress! People differ in their ways of coping (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). I find that when I am fully rested, I can cope with stressful situations. 

The two general types of copying strategies, problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping are easier, for me, to handle and recognize when I get sufficient sleep (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Lazarus & Launier, 1978). I can deal with the problem directly, if one arises and I have a better time at regulating my emotions when I feel emotional about something that I have no control over. Of course, there are other things that I feel are factors in helping people cope with stress. Eating a healthy diet and working out help in coping with stress. 

I feel that sometimes though, no matter what steps you are taking to take care of yourself so you can cope with stress in your life, it can run you ragged. These are the times that you do not realize that the stress is having a major affect because you feel that you have everything under control and nothing seems to be bothering you. How do you cope with stress and do you agree that when you feel run down and exhausted for no reason that we can just blame it on excessive amounts of stress?

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2nd ed.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stess, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

Lazarus, R. S., & Launier, R. (1978). Stess-related transactions between person and environment. In L. A. Pervin & M. Lewis (Eds.), Perspectives in interactional psychology (pp. 287-327). New York: Plenum Press.

The Cost of Constant Connectivity

| 3 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

Communication technologies--the radio, telephone, television, and Internet; as well as iPads, cell phones (especially Smart Phones), and Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram--have created advances in the way we interact with others and our environment, and has changed the way we work and participate in leisure. It has also, however, taken away much of our privacy, harmed our ability to communicate with others and hindered our grammatical skills, increased our susceptibility to danger, and is making us lonely.

The Internet has been a wonderful asset in the sense that it allows us to be connected to whomever whenever we want to be. It is possible to look up things one does not know or understand, find directions when lost, and shop online when trying to avoid the stores. The Internet has also taken away much of our privacy. People are much easier to track than before; just take Facebook for example. Many people post where they are, what they are doing, and with whom, displaying both the time and location.

Information that identifies individual Internet users, their surfing habits, and even their passwords can be gleaned from a variety of sources, including the records of Web sites they have visited that are stored on their own computers and the information they leave behind at the Web sites they visit. This information may be recorded by those Web sites they visit, by third parties that are accessing their machines from remote locations, or simply by sitting down at their computers when they are not present (Levitt & Rosch, 2002, p. 1).

This is why you see West Elm ads to the side of your screen while on the Best Buy web site after having just left West Elm's site). Smart Phone cameras also often track the location of the photograph, and games that must connect to the Internet make attempts to connect with friends on Facebook or other social media sites.

Communication technology has also harmed our ability to communicate with others all while hindering our ability to use correct grammar. It is not hard to notice how often we see individuals "connected" by their phones or iPads, but they are with other people who are also focused on their phones. Spending time together has now become sitting in close proximity, but with little or no real-world interaction. Take a walk down the street and you will notice people with headphones plugged into their ears, or talking on the cell phone, or playing a videogame even when they are "interacting" with friends or family.

It is almost impossible not to interact with communication technology, but in doing so we also have hindered the proper use of language. With shortcut words like "LOL," "TTYL," "LMAO," and "BRB," people have become professionals at the non-use of English. In addition, people, especially younger generations, do not bother with correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Sentences in text messages and emails are run-on, lack capitalization or proper subject-noun placements, and their knowledge of spelling is hurt by the constant use of Spell Check. As one teacher states

I am dismayed by students' growing ignorance regarding sentence structure and other simple grammatical principles. This ignorance is most apparent in their writing, which abounds with fragments, dangling participles, pronoun-antecedent disagreement, and verb tense confusion, to highlight a few" (La Vista, 2003, p. 9), and there seems to be little improvement.

Constant connectivity has also increased or susceptibility to danger. It is now much easier for people to steal one's identity or personal account information (shopping online, online banking), for people to know where one lives and where he or she frequents with friends, family, or alone, and for lovers (or ex-lovers) to keep tabs on and harass their partners (called cyberstalking).


Cyberstalking is engaging in stalking behaviors using electronic communication devices (OVC, 2002; United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), 1999; USDOJ, Violence Against Women Office, 2001). Cyberstalkers employ various methods, including monitoring victim's e-mail, sending threatening e-mails or text messages, seeking victims' personal information on the Internet to use for harassment, and monitoring the victim's behaviors with electronic devices such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) (D'Ovidio & Doyle, 2003; Finn & Banach, 2000; Gregorie, 2001; Ogilvie, 2000a, 2000b; Spitzberg & Hoobler, 2002)" (Truman, 2007, pp. 15-16).


Facebook photos also give away where we have been, and tweets tell people where we are going. Photographs show the world what we look like, what our friends look like, and display our parents and siblings. People can easily take our photos and information and share it without our consent (consider Catfish on MTV). Criminals and vengeful people have a much easier time finding out about who we are, where we live, and how to reach us, and we continue to make this easy for them.


Lastly, as connected as many people are, they often experience loneliness and the anxiety of feeling like everyone's life is more active and exciting than their own. This creates depression and anxiety, especially among young people, who frequent social media sites and the Internet, being affected by the people they see who are rich, "pretty," skinny, happy, and who look like life is great and that they have tons of friends. In reality, the grass is still often greener on the other side, but our virtual lives have become so integral to our daily lives and the ways in which we define ourselves, that it is nearly impossible to think rationally about what we see.

In the end, communication technologies make our lives better and also make our lives worse, but we must learn how to work with the changes so that we can stay better protected, happier, and smarter individuals.


La Vista, V. M. (May, 2003). "The Power of Imagination." The English Journal, 92(5), pp. 9-10.

Levitt, C. and Rosch, M. (2002, Nov 1). "Protecting your privacy on the Internet". Los Angeles lawyer (0162-2900), 25 (8), p. 75.

Truman, J. L. (2010). Examining intimate partner stalking and use of technology in stalking victimization. (3415052, University of Central Florida). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 242-n/a.

84 Billion Reasons to Think About Employee Absenteeism

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks


Absenteeism in the workplace is an often overlooked area of worker productivity.   Some research suggests a correlation between job dissatisfaction and worker absence, but there doesn't seem to be a particularly strong one (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  There are certainly valid reasons for an absence, like acute illness, foul weather, or the death of a family member, but the elephant in the room may be our overall level of mental and physical health.  In fact, a recent study estimated absenteeism related to poor health (obesity, smoking, etc.) cost US business $84 billion in 2012 alone (Hamilton, 2013).   To put that number in perspective, it's more than twice the $40 billion total retail theft reported in 2010 (Kavilanz, 2010).  Retail stores spend a fortune on security and surveillance, but very few take any proactive steps to address the much larger issue of absenteeism as it relates to poor general health.  Why?  I think one of the main reasons is many employers aren't aware of the issue and the ones who are don't know how to approach an issue that revolves primarily around personal choice.  It's possible, however, that social psychology and the medical field may have an answer.

In 2007, a group of researchers set out to determine whether worker absenteeism could be reduced using an innovative web-based health monitoring system.  This isn't the first time someone has attempted health promotion in the workplace and results have been largely inconsistent, but the key difference in this intervention, was guiding behavioral change through cognitive dissonance.  The study focused on data collected from more than 20,000 Dutch workers, including nearly 4,000 employees who enrolled in the Prevention Compass Program (Niessen, Kraaijenhagen, Dijkgraaf, Van Pelt, & Van Kalken, 2012).  Researchers established a baseline for employee absenteeism prior to the 3 step intervention, and began selection/implementation.  First, enrollees signed up in the web portal and began entering their personal health information.  This was immediately followed by a brief physical at the workplace designed to gather key physiological measurements (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.).  The combination of data produced a customized risk profile on their personal web portal, which was based on the green, orange, and red traffic light model.  Second, the portal gave enrollees an explanation or their risks, potential outcomes, and the potential gains they could realize by making changes in their behavior or lifestyle.  Third, and seemingly unique to this program, participants were given individualized recommendations for action based on their stated motivation to change behaviors.  The program was basically designed to avoid pressure and guilt, in an acknowledgement that internal motivation is required to have lasting, more permanent cognitive and behavioral change.  If an enrollee's profile included a "low" motivation to quit smoking, for example, only brief information about the health benefits associated with quitting were included, along with links to more information.  If an individual's stated motivation was "high", however, a detailed plan of action was included, along with personal and professional resources at their disposal.  What this study attempted to do was create a condition where enrollees were made aware of their health risks, made aware of their problem behaviors, presented with chance to affirm their personal level of motivation to change the behavior, and then provided them with tools necessary for action.  How effective was this method?  At the conclusion of the study, absenteeism in the group of enrollees decreased a full 20%.  What's more, Neissen speculates the initial drop may be just the beginning (related to lower stress and improved mental health), with greater gains to be realized as the long-term health benefits of their behavioral changes kick in ("Worksite Health Promotion", 2012).

                While this study is certainly only the beginning and the effect of large scale implementation is unknown, the results were incredibly encouraging.  Considering the estimated $84 billion figure cited earlier, American businesses would save roughly $84 million collectively for each 1% reduction in health-related absenteeism.  Further, the impact of a healthier population could have a positive ripple effect throughout other areas of the economy (higher productivity, health care savings, etc.).  You could argue this topic might be better categorized under "Health" than "Organizational Life", but I think it applied equally to both.  In effect, the combination of medical analysis, information technology, and applied social psychology are being combined in one intervention designed to improve employee health, improve employee productivity, and reduce the tremendous costs associated with health-related worker absenteeism.  Given how much time we spend at work, how dependent we are on  employment for income, and the effects of health-related stress both in and out of the workplace, I believe it's very possible interventions of this nature has the potential to profoundly affect our lives both inside the office and out.



Hamilton, W. (2013, May 8). Absenteeism costs U.S. business $84 billion a year, report says - Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from

Kavilanz, P. (2010, October 19). Store theft costing your family budget $423 - Oct. 19, 2010. CNN Money. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from

Niessen, M., Kraaijenhagen, R., Dijkgraaf, M., Van Pelt, D., & Van Kalken, C. (2012). Impact of a Web-Based Worksite Health Promotion Program on Absenteeism.Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine54(4), 404-408.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems(2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Worksite Health Promotion Program Reduces Absenteeism. (2012, April 10).American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Retrieved June 8, 2013, from

Antibiotic Misuse: Are you adding to the problem?

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

As a nation we have become very dependent on medical intervention.  This can be a very good thing when curing disease or treating deadly illnesses, but when it comes to the misuse of antibiotics, it is actually hindering more than helping.  Antibiotic overuse is becoming a very major problem for our society because the more a person uses antibiotics, the less the medication works (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).   Bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotic; antibiotics that normally killed certain microorganisms are now defenseless against them.   The misuse of antibiotics is leading to the creation of super bacteria that cannot be treated with normal antibiotics. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), misuse of antibiotics is "one of the world's most pressing public problems."  One way the antibiotics are being misused is many providers are over-prescribing antibiotics for viral illnesses such as ear infections, viral bronchitis, and influenza.  This harmful because the antibiotics do not work against viral infections and it contributes to the antibiotic resistance (Mayo Clinic, 2013).   Another way antibiotics are being misused is by people not taking them as prescribed.  Many people stop taking antibiotics as soon as they are feeling better, but this is adding to antibiotic resistance.  Even though a person may feel healthy, there are still lingering microorganisms in the body that have not been killed by the antibiotic because the complete dosage was not taken.  The microorganism would have only been weakened by the medication and not have learned how to defend against it the next time it is used.   One example of antibiotic resistant bacteria is MRSA.  MRSA at one time was a rare infection that showed up in hospitals, but is now causing infections in healthy people as well (Mayo Clinic, 2013).  This is very troubling for the medical community because it is very hard to treat MRSA due to its resistance to common antibiotics that at one time cured the infection.  Antibiotic resistant bacteria will continue to show up if society continues to misuse antibiotics. 

Antibiotic resistant bacteria can be combated if society stops misusing antibiotics.  Mayo Clinic outlines some simple ways to promote appropriate antibiotic use.  Medical staff and patients need to understand when it is appropriate to used antibiotics and when it is not appropriate.  Antibiotics should never be used for viral infections such as colds.  There are many other methods that can be used to elevate bothersome symptoms that will produce healthier results.  A patient should always the medication as it was prescribed.  Although the person may be feeling better, they must take the entire prescribed amount.    And lastly, proper hand washing is proven to prevent the spread of disease.  This small step can produce huge results.

This is a global health problem and it is important that we protect ourselves as well as other.  Implementing these small steps can defend against the outbreak of more antibiotic resistant bacteria that cause harmful infections.   



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013).  Features. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2013). Antiobiotics: Misuse puts you and others at risk. Retrieved from


Infected by American Standards

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks
Consider this typical scenario: you work for a large financial company, making pretty good money. You generally generate a lot of business and revenue with your hard work. It is now 5:00 pm, and you arrived to work at 7:00 this morning to "finish things up." You were so busy all day that you ate lunch late (not until 2:00 pm) and you could not even enjoy it because of your third meeting for the day at 2:30. It is now 5:00 pm, and when you should be heading home, you are still at your desk trying to complete just one more report, and since you have three more to do by your next client meeting on Monday, you will probably come in early tomorrow, even though it is Saturday, and work for about three or four hours. As an added bonus, with the inventions of Smartphones you can access your "work" anywhere and any time, so you never really have to "leave" work anyway (and unfortunately you find that it is almost impossible to do).

American's are not far from this workaholic lifestyle. Even in jobs less demanding, as a culture America frowns upon vacation time and days off. According to the CNN article "Why is America the 'No-Vacation Nation'?," American's spend most of their time working, and even when they are "off" they are still attached to their workplaces; some companies even expect this. As the articles states, "besides a handful of national holidays, the typical American worker bee gets two or three precious weeks off out of a whole year to relax and see the world--much less than what people in many other countries receive...And even that amount of vacation often comes with strings attached" (Pawlowski, 2011). America frowns upon time away from work, especially large chunks of time, and those who do like to use their well-deserved leave often have to be fearful of someone else "who works harder" taking their job.

There are several problems at play, one of which is based on government policy. "Employers in the United States are not obligated under federal law to offer any paid vacation, so about a quarter of all American workers don't have access to it, government figures show...That makes the U.S. the only advanced nation in the world that doesn't guarantee its workers annual leave, according to a report titled "No-Vacation Nation" by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal policy group"
(Pawlowski, 2011). The fact is that America does not seem to want its people to "relax." Essentially, in keeping with our American Dream ideals, life is all work and no play. Unlike almost every other country which encourages leave (many give one month or more of mandatory vacation time and they generally take it all at one time), America values capital gain. Unfortunately, this seems to generally benefits the already wealthy and powerful. The ones killing themselves for their jobs are still often under-compensated and over-worked. Along with more work and less leisure also comes health problems from stress and/or lack of sleep. There is an entire field of psychology that looks at employee health and well being--Occupational Psychology. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress is a prevalent and costly problem in today's workplace. About one-third of workers report high levels of stress, and high levels of stress are associated with substantial increases in health service utilization. Additionally, periods of disability due to job stress tend to be much longer than disability periods for other occupational injuries and illnesses" (CDC, 2011). Stress and unhappiness may also relate to withdrawal behaviors, like high levels of absenteeism and turnover. In addition to relating directly to employee physical and mental health, it also relates to his or her overall satisfaction with life (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Work stress harms the employee, the organization within which the individual works, and the entire country.  

The second problem is this new concept of "weisure," where the dividing line that used to definitively separate work and leisure, has now become blurred (Patterson, 2009). This phenomenon has occurred for a few reasons, namely (1) that the more money one makes today, the greater number of hours he or she tends to work, so weisure acts as time savings; and (2) creations like Social Media have helped to further lessen the distinction between what constitutes work and what constitutes play, especially since many "friends" on sites like Facebook are often business contacts or customers (Patterson, 2009). Clearly the government alone is not to blame because we as a nation advanced this meshing of work and leisure ourselves, and some of us are now beginning to regret this trend.

The fact remains, that America, unlike many other countries, values work and the acquisition of money, more than relaxing and taking a vacation. This has the potential to do serious harm to employees both mentally and physically, which has already been occurring for years. It is a trend with far-reaching and widely varied consequences and it is time for an intervention. We need a holistic solution that changes the stigma against vacations as a sure way to lose a job, reduce the hostility against employees who want to have a life outside of work, reward people for the work they are doing so that they are more relaxed and well rested, which will help increase their work performance, and we need to create true policy and cultural changes that will make leisure just as important as working. Much easier said than done, especially given the uneven distribution of work and leisure time across various groups, but it is time we start somewhere.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Work Organization and Stress-Related Disorders. Retrieved from

Patterson, T. (2009, May 11). Welcome to the 'weisure' lifestyle. Retrieved from

Pawlowski, A. (2011, May 23). Why is America the 'no-vacation nation'? CNN Travel. Retrieved from

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Persuasion, Social Influence, and the Media

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks
It's obvious that health, wellness, and health care are big issues in our country.  For many Americans the costs of maintaining their well-being can be of the most burdensome in the daily lives of the individual and the family.  Unfortunately, there are thousands of people who die each year by not getting adequate health care, and for many that live in lower-income areas, the concept of good coverage is all but a pipe dream.

The writing is essentially on the wall--we need to take better care of our bodies and maintain healthy lifestyles.  However, heart disease and cancer are the highest ranked causes of death for Americans at close to 1.2 million people a year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).  One of the best ways to reduce these risks is through diet and exercise, and while there are many campaigns out there that urge people to stay active and eat right, there seems to be a competing narrative.  

For quite a while, fast food companies, tobacco companies, and other such entities were able to advertise in the media without much regulation.  For messages to be effective, they need to be noticed by dissemination through various methods (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012).  We've all seen various fast food commercials, cigarette ads in magazines, and other appeals to the American sense of freedom to do whatever, smoke whatever, and eat and drink whatever we want.  Then came the research.  

Somewhere along the way, smart people did some research and discovered that maybe you can't smoke a pack of cigs a day and not be affected, or eat fast food twice a day and expect to remain healthy.  Eventually, calorie counts and warning labels had to be posted for various products, but not without backlash.  Call it greed or capitalism, but many business executives did not want to admit that their products were causing harm to their customers, and the battle still rages on today.

As such, this is a monumental challenge for applied social psychologists.  No longer can they simply present the hard data that say "this is bad."  They will have to present it in a sort of layman's pitch in order to get through to the masses of Americans with egos and senses of entitlement so big that they are offended by the thought of someone telling them how to live their lives--even if it is for the better.  It will have to be done using social media and other newer forms of communication and advertising in addition to the older, more tried-and-true methods.  It's an uphill battle, to say the least.  


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Leading causes of death. Retrieved from

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.  

Stress-Induced Behavior: The Devil's in the Habit

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

          We all get stressed out.  Part of the human condition is dealing with the balancing act of work, life, family, school, and all the stress that comes along with it.  We also know the amount of stress we're experiencing and our effectiveness in coping with stress can suppress our immune system, negatively impacting our physical health.  In fact, high stress has been linked to everything from increased instances of headaches, to less sleep, and increased rates of respiratory illness or infectious disease (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).  Further, a study published in the Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism journal found that missing just one good night of sleep (four or fewer hours) actually fostered a state of insulin resistance associated with increased obesity (Donga et al, 2011).  Basically, stress and the way we deal with it has a lot of potentially negative consequences.  Beyond making us sick, fat, and tired, however, how does stress impact our behavior?  A recent study at USC (appearing in the forthcoming June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) revealed some interesting results.

          We're all aware of the old stereotypical behavior associated with high stress.  Whether it's smoking a pack of cigarettes, gorging on a gallon of ice cream, biting our nails down to nubs, or scrapping our workout to lie on the couch all day, high stress often seems to lead to some sort of relapse into behaviors we've been doing our best to suppress.  So is stress working like a cartoon devil on our shoulder encouraging us to engage in bad behaviors?  According to Wendy Wood, a professor of psychology and business at University of Southern California, the answer is no.  Wood believes stress behavior can sometimes be controlled by willpower, but more often follows the path of least resistance: habit (Wu, 2013).  When we're stressed, we stretch the finite resources we have available for self-regulation.  As those mental resources dwindle, our behavior tends to default back to our established routine because it requires the lowest amount of willpower, thought, and effort.  The implications of habit-default behavioral responses to stress are interesting because our reaction to stress will ultimately be guided by the most easily accessible habit, good or bad.  To test the theory, Wood and colleagues followed a group of students during the school year.  What they found was under particularly stressful stretches during the year - exams- they became more stressed, more sleep-deprived, and even more likely to stick to their regular daily habits, for better or worse (Wu, 2013).  For example, students who typically ate donuts for breakfast ate more junk food, while students who ate oatmeal for breakfast ate more oatmeal.  Even sleep-deprived, with less available time and energy, students who regularly read the newspaper or went to the gym were even more likely to read the newspaper or go to the gym during periods of high stress.

          So what are the implications?  It would appear that stress can stretch our mental resources thin and lead us to seek out the behaviors that are easiest to perform with little conscious effort.  Rather than directing us toward bad habits, stress may simply lead us to repeat our easiest to access automatic behaviors, whether those behaviors are good or bad.  If that's true, the answer to successfully fending off the negative behaviors associated with stress might not be through sheer power of will in the moment, but establishing better, easier to maintain, daily habits in their place.  The process of forming positive habits is beyond the scope of this blog entry, but possibly worth a later entry on its own.  In either case, it seems the findings of at least one study support the idea that stress can either be the devil on our left shoulder or the angel on our just depends which one we're already in the habit of listening to.



Donga, E., Dijk, M. v., van Dijk, J. G., Biermasz, N. R., Lammers, G., van Kralingen, K. W., et al. (2010). A Single Night Of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance In Multiple Metabolic Pathways In Healthy Subjects.Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & metabolism 95(6), 2963-2968.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems(2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Wu, S. (2013, May 28). - Good or bad, habits stick in times of stress. . Retrieved June 1, 2013, from

Some Stress is Learned

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

Throughout my college experience I have taken several psychology, kinesiology, and health classes, and one aspect that always comes up in a treatment program is stress. This week's lesson briefly mentions stress and what it can do to your body, but it also mentions observational learning. The example use in class was of a bear jumping out in front of you, obviously that is stressful, but very few of us experience this consistently on a daily basis. Yet we are still stressed, why?

Personally, I believe a lot of stresses are learned through the observational learning theory mentioned in class. According to an article posted on the Psychology Today website this past fall, there are several daily hassles that people stress out about. These include losing/misplacing things, a tough daily commute, a weight problem, an overload at work or too many errands to run, home maintenance, not getting enough sleep, and troublesome neighbors. (Riggio, 2012). 

Obviously, all of these things are not really desirable, but why is a daily commute tough or stressful. Why are running errands stressful? The answer is when we were younger we saw our parents stress out about these things and now advertising campaigns displays all of these events are stressful entities. We learn to become stressed over little things that don't really matter in the long run. 

Think about it this way, if you are stressed about how many things you need to get done this weekend, are you really going to sleep that well tonight? Notice that not sleeping well is one of the things mentioned above that people will stress about. It's a never-ending circle that we have learned to participate in. Have you ever seen people stress out about going on vacation? I know I have, and  I have been guilty of it a time or too. Why? Because there is a flight schedule to make? The oh my gosh I can't be late for my flight moment causes a ton of stress, but how many people have really ever missed a flight because of their own actions? I don't think very many. We learn to stress about this because the airports and flight companies make such a big deal about getting to the airport multiple hours before your flight leaves. They say they do this to insure you get on the flight, but they really do this so they can improve their efficiency ratings. They will get you on the plane if you are at the airport.

Most daily stresses in or lives are learned and in general are not that stressful. We tend to get caught up in being stuck in traffic is the worst thing ever, it's really not that bad and if you are stressed about being stuck in traffic take the long peaceful way to get there. Now I can hear some of you going through a list in your head of all the problems that will cause. They are not problems or inconveniences, just choices you can make to improve your quality of life. Learn to relax, whether it be by observational learning or through therapy, relax and enjoy what life has to offer instead of stressing over things that aren't that stressful. Now if a bear jumps out at you, get stressed and run!!


Riggio, R. (2012, October 23). Don't Let Life's Hassles Become Stressors | Psychology Today. Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Retrieved May 31, 2013, from

Bathing Suit Season

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

weight loss help.jpg

Bathing suit season is upon us! This past Monday marked the unofficial start to the summer of 2013. The vacations have been scheduled, the sunscreen has been purchased and the air conditioners are humming. Life is perfect, right? Well along with all the fun in the sun comes the dreaded search for the perfect bathing suit. Now is when all of that holiday eating from months past comes to a halt! If any of you are like me, you're scrambling to eat healthy and shed those last few pounds before heading off to the beach, the pool or vacation spot.

So why is it so hard to lose weight? Lack of dedication? Lack of motivation? Inability to do so? No time? There are many reasons however there is also a psychological explanation. Simply recognizing the problem is the first step. According to the health belief model, we are able to predict our health behaviors based on specific indicators such as how vulnerable to a disease we perceive ourselves to be (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). For example, if you are overweight and you've lost a close relative to heart disease, you may have been impacted by that loss and be more motivated to lose weight. Losing someone close to you takes away the 'it only happens to other people' perception and creates a reality that you too may be susceptible. Another factor is how severe you perceive the disease to be. You may not perceive the heart disease as severe is you haven't directly seen people suffer from it. Other factors such as self-efficacy, (our confidence that we have the ability to change the outcome), the way we calculate our cost-benefit analysis of weight loss (barriers and benefits) and reminders from our environment (cues to action) all make up the health belief model and contribute to predicting our health behaviors (Schneider, et al., 2012).

While the health belief model helps predict your behaviors, actually changing the behaviors is where we start to see results. So what is the next step in the process? Change your behaviors and lose weight. Easier said than done. According to the theory of planned behavior, we must change our behaviors based on our intended goal, also known as behavioral intention (Schneider, et al., 2012). Our behavior intention to can be further broken down into three groups: attitudes toward losing weight, subjective norms to lose weight (ie. What others around us and in society think of losing weight), and how much control we think we have over losing weight. The first and third factors are, in my opinion, the toughest. The media screams, 'You're not sexy if you're not thin" and everyone seems to be trying to lose weight faster than their neighbor. (Even kids are being put on diets but that is for another post, another day!) Because of this, the subjective norms are there, losing weight is not only acceptable but optimal. Getting our attitudes towards losing weight can be a challenge but I've noticed that for me, the more I think about it, the more motivated I become to do it (Prochaska and DiClemente would say I'm in the contemplation stage) (Schneider, et al., 2012).

The challenging component is how much control we think we have over losing weight. I think this may be a challenge because it is easy to just say, "I can't help it, I'm hungry" or "I just couldn't resist that chocolate donut. I worked hard today and I deserve it." It made sense to learn that this component was closely linked with self-efficacy. When you are confident you can make the change, you will be successful in doing so. My advice is if you want it bad enough, it will come. You ARE in control of what you eat and the decisions you make to do so. Economical excuses aside, you can make healthy meals and exercise, you simply have to dedicate yourself to it. If you don't feel you hold yourself accountable to yourself , enlist the help of a friend to be your mentor. Checking in with someone on a daily basis about what food choices you made or exercise you did (or didn't) participate in helps keep you in check. Motivate yourself to make a difference. As I tell myself, losing 10 pounds now is easier than trying to lose 20 in the future! Happy Summer Everyone!


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (second ed., p. 166-190). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications Inc.

The Health of The Elderly

| 3 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

            The biopsychosocial model recognizes that health is determined not only by biological factors but also by psychological and social factors (Engel, 1977) therefore it would be senseless to provide people only with medical assistance. Indeed, it would be more relevant to offer social and psychological support as well. In addition, Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2010) evoke that some researchers have examined the role of social support in relation to particular chronic or life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and aids, and these studies have underlined the importance and relevance of emotional support (Taylor, 2003; Brannon & Feist, 2000). Finally, in an effort to improve nursing home residents' health and well being, some interventions in nursing homes have demonstrated the efficacy of more personalized care and attention, the need to develop a sense of control in residents over their lives and to create better living conditions (Langer & Rodin, 1976; Kane et al., 2007).

            I recently read an article in The New Yorker (Mead, 2013) about dementia patients and a new model of nursing home called Beatitudes developed in Arizona after Kitwood's work (1997). The idea behind this program is to promote a person-centered care where giving relationships can grow without stigmatizing patients and over medicating them. The article describes the special features of the home and explains the training and attitude of the staff in regards to providing care. It seems that the motto is to adapt to the patient in an effort to improve his well-being. For example, one resident has been accommodated in a reclining armchair instead of a bed to sleep because that better suited his needs. Plus, since dementia affects cognitive abilities the staff and nurses were trained to pay special attention to nonverbal cues. In fact, part of the training consists in making the staff sensitive to patient's physical limitations. The staff sometimes is invited to experience the patients' situation, for instance by trying wearing diapers themselves so as to better understand and adapt to the residents' needs. After this experience, the staff decided to take residents to the toilet more often instead of making them wear diapers, and this increased the resident's comfort and well-being, and in the end represented less work for the staff. While these techniques may sound a bit avant-gardist, very simple and effective strategies resembling the ones implemented by Langer and Rodin (1996) were also used to increase the resident's sense of freedom, choice and control. Residents were allowed to have a meal whenever they wanted and patients were given the right to fall. This may appear strange but the article explains that sometimes staff and nurses are afraid of patients hurting themselves and therefore don't encourage them to move as often as they would like.

            By increasing the quality of the residents' lifestyle this place also seems to have made its residents happier. The article notes that the program involves long training sessions for staff members and will expand to other places. It will comprise an evaluation and should last thirty months and cost around hundred and fifty thousands dollars. It is obvious that this program emphasizes creativity and innovation to improve the conditions of people afflicted with dementia and in a way this was also the case of the program designed by Langer and Roding (1996) by introducing the plant as a symbol of choice and responsibility for the elderly. This reminds me of another creative and so far effective way of providing more interactions and distractions to the elderly that has been implemented recently in France. Last year, my daughter visited a nursing home with her daycare several times during the year. Together with her grandmas and grandpas (that is how she would call them), they would play music and share cookies in an attempt to communicate and share a pleasurable moment. Intergenerational groups are spreading in institutions and organizations with the goal of bringing people together and foster more social contact especially when certain age groups are isolated from one another. Further research will tell whether those interactions can benefit the elderly and toddlers and appease feelings of hopelessness and helplessness in nursing homes.




Brannon, L., & Feist, J. (2000). Health psychology: An introduction to behavior and health. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196, 219-136.

Kane, R. A., Lum, T. Y., Cutler, L. J., Degenholtz, H. B. & Yu, T.-C. (2007). Resident Outcomes in Small-House Nursing Homes: A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Initial Green House Program. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55, 832-839.

Kitwood, T. (1997). Dementia reconsidered: The person comes first. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.

Langer, E. J., & Rodin, J. (1976). The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: A field experiment in an institutional setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(2), 191-191-198.

Mead, R. (2013). The sense of an ending: An Arizona nursing homes offers new ways to care for people with dementia. The New Yorker, May 20, 2013, 92-103.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Taylor, S. E. (2003). Health psychology (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Are we Popping Pills-To Death?

| 3 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

popping pills.jpg

In the United States there is a current problem with the overuse of pharmaceutical drugs.  We as a nation are popping pills to death.   Between 1997 and 2003, 893 deaths in rural Virginia were ruled "accidental" overdoses of prescription medications. (Wunsch, Nakamoto, Nuzzo, Behonick, Massello & Walsh, 2009). 

In 2003, the U.S. consumed 45% of global pharmaceutical sales (USDHHS 2004).  Additionally, prescription drug misuse in the U.S. has been a rising trend since 2004 (Schepis and Krishnan-Sarin 2009), and the U.S. spent $215 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2003, and $228 billion in 2004. This is a major problem.  Society sees nothing wrong with taking pills prescribed by doctors, even when it seems that there is an overabundance of miscommunication between patient, doctor and pharmacist.

Americans spend about $300 billion a year on legal drugs per year, not millions but billions a year. The surprising part is that by the time a patient sees their doctor; they already have an idea as to what drug they want, not by doing independent research, but by simply watching the advertisements on television, or print media.  This to me seems like it is quiet the scam.  If we are to move forward as a healthy nation, then we need to ditch the dependence on all the pills.  There are other alternatives to our pill popping ways.  

The deaths in that rural Virginia town seem to be a small number compared with the millions in the United States, but for that to be the cause, there is a larger problem at hand. A 300% increase in deaths occurred over a six year period of time in this area of the United States is enough to raise some flags on its own.  However, the reality that most of these deaths were associated primarily with the overuse of opiates, anti-depressants, and benzodiazepines may be pointing to the root of the problem.  Not only are these drugs highly used, but the research suggests these drugs are overused in astounding and lethal combinations, at the very least, in certain areas of the county (Wunsch et al. 2009).

There are currently drugs that are simply considered "lifestyle" drugs, drugs that treat everything from sleeping, to erectile dysfunction to smoking, basically anything that is not life threatening.  The public simply cannot live without enhancement and beauty.

It seems over-consumption of pharmaceutical medications is not only unhealthy, but it is potentially lethal. The question that must be asked is this, is it just convenient and more profitable for doctors to keep their patients coming back for more pills?  If that is the case then this would support the idea that pharmaceutical overuse not only makes an individual poorer, but it also has a negative impact on economies unrelated to the pharmaceutical industry.

Wunsch, M., K. Nakamoto, P.A. Nuzzo, G. Behonick, W. Massello, S.L. Walsh. August, 2009. Prescription drug fatalities among women in rural Virginia: a study of medical examiner cases. J Opioid Manag 4, no. 5 (July-August, 2009): 228-36. October

Schepis, T.S., and Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin. 2009. Sources for prescriptions for misuse by adolescents: Differences in sex, ethnicity, and severity of misuse in a population-based study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 48, no. 8: 828-836.

Coping with Life

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
Who's got stress? Why don't zebras have stress, they run for their lives in the wild all day, every day? Ah, the human condition, the ability to produce introspection, an inner monologue, and cognition. We can perceive our surroundings and interpret them uniquely. A miraculous task, indeed, but a tremendously painful one for some. I work in the mental health field, surrounded by those plagued by their thoughts - I, too, and plagued by my ability to create intelligent thought. Some say ignorance is bliss.
The best way to handle the stress we all encounter in our lives is to approach it accordingly and deal with it in healthy ways. How do you best deal with stress? I, unfortunately, tend to shut down. If someone inquires about what's bothering me, I would rather not discuss it and bury the feelings until they go away. Bad idea! There are so many more constructive ways to confront your stress. Lazarus and Folkman's definition of stress is a "a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being" (p.183). Lazarus and Folkman also describe an approach called the transactional model of stress - the model posits that people's transactions with their environment and people around them include specific situations, events, and people that bring about stressful feelings for them. How do we respond to these perceived threats or challenges? Our response these stimuli are appraisals of our environment (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
Coping is the toughest part. This is a conscious confrontation of what stresses us the most. Coping is considered thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we look to use to decrease our stressful feelings (Schneider, et al., 2012).. Coping methods are different for everyone, whether it be listening to music, reading a book, or taking a walk. Coping can either be problem-focused or emotion-focused. Should we challenge our stress by determining the issue that is stressful or deal with our feelings of stress? For me, I think to deal with my feelings of stress is a better pathway to serenity. Unfortunately, many of the problems we are faced with are unchangeable and therefore, we must change ourselves to deal with them.

Lazarus, R.L. & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping.Springer Publishing Company.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. Los Angelos: Sage Publications, Inc.

Recovery and Situational Variables

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

Situational variables play a key role in determining a person's overall health and well-being. Whether a patient is recovering from an illness or seeking medical attention, it is important not to underestimate the role situational variables play. Studies by Kane, Lum, Cutler, Dagenholtz, and Yu (1976), as well as studies by Langer and Rodin (1976), serve to support the importance of situational variables in healthcare.

Kane et al. (1976) conducted a study of dementia patients residing in a residential style nursing home (The Green House) where a premium was placed on privacy and individual growth rather than therapeutic treatments. They compared the overall health and well being of The Green House residents to residents living in nursing homes more traditional in nature (Cedars and Trinity). The traditional nursing homes were lacking in the level of privacy and attention to individual growth that was stressed at Green House (Kane et al., 2007). The results indicate residents of Green House received at least an equal level of quality of care as residents at Trinity and Cedars, with a greater increase of functional status. Additionally, the residents of Green House reported a higher quality of life on nearly all measures than the residents at Cedars and an nearly half of the measures as compared to the residents of Trinity.

Langer and Rodin's (1976) study examined the role personal responsibility plays in the improvement of quality of life of elderly patients. Their study showed that patients who were allowed to take responsibility for themselves as well as make decisions on their own, showed a noticeable improvement in a sense of well-being, alertness, and participation over their counterparts who were not afforded the same levels of responsibility and independence.

 Other situational variables have also been proven to affect the health of Americans. Media, family, peer influences, level of stress, ability to cope with stress, social support, and level of education have all shown to have an effect on the overall health of Americans. Additionally, a person's perception of their own health, expectations of treatment, expectations of illness, and level of self-efficacy have been shown to play a role in the health of Americans and how they identify a need for and pursue treatment options (Schneider, Gruman, & Couts, 2012). Because of this, it is important that intervention plans aimed at the health care deliver system should be careful to consider not only the medical needs of the patient, but also the social and situational needs of the patient as well.



Kane, R. A., Lum, T. Y., Cutler, L. J., Degenholtz, H. B. & Yu, T.-C. (2007).Resident Outcomes in Small-House Nursing Homes: A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Initial Green House Program. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55, 832-839. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-415.2007.01169.x 


Langer, E. J., & Rodin, J. (1976). The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: A field experiment in an institutional setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(2), 191-191-198. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.34.2.191 


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Stress, Coping, and Self-Esteem

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
      Stress is "a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well being" (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Based on this idea of person-environment fit,  a person will feel little stress when dealing with a particular situation, if they feel they have the adequate resources to deal with the event (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). As we go through our day, we may encounter an event that causes us to feel stressed, called a stressor (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). For example, according to the American Psychological Association (2008), people in the United States reported money, the economy, work, family, and health problems to be their top five stressors. It is important to note that stress results from the process of encountering a stressor, judging potential responses, and then responding to the event (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).
      The impact of any stressful event is influenced by how we cope with it. Coping pertains to the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that are used to manage stress (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Self-esteem, or the amount of value we place on ourselves, is a component of our self-concept that can influence how we cope with stressful situations (Rogers, 1959; Taylor, 2012). High self-esteem has been shown to be a useful resource for coping with stress. One study looked at students who were about to take an exam at school, and found that the students with high self-esteem were less likely to respond to stress by getting upset (Shimizu & Pelham, 2004).  Another study, conducted by Seeman and colleagues in 1995, found that high self-esteem is related to lower levels of HPA axis activity in the brain. This is significant because over-activation of the HPA axis can eventually damage its functioning and lead to illnesses (Seeman et al., 1995).
      Thus, interventions that can help a person improve their self concept can also improve the way they cope with stressful events. As an example, a research study (Creswell et al., 2005) asked one group of participants to think and write about their most important values. The other group was asked to focus on less important values. Both groups were then exposed to various stressors, including a mental arithmetic test and giving a speech to unreceptive listeners. The results of this experiment showed that the people who had focused on their important personal values had lower biological responses to the stressful situations they were placed in. Similarly, the participants with high self-esteem underwent less psychological stress also.
      As a whole, coping resources, like self-esteem, can help us manage the stresses of a demanding job, financial struggles, taking an exam, or even getting a ticket while driving. Developing coping strategies can also help us experience less unhappiness, fewer health risks, and an overall better quality of life (Steptoe & Marmot, 2003).


American Psychological Association. (2008). Stress in America. Washington DC: American Psychological Association Research Office.

Creswell, J. D., Welch, W. T., Taylor, S. E., Sherman, D. K., Gruenewald, T., Mann, T. (2005). Affirmation of personal values buffers neuroendocrine and psychological stress responses. Psychological Science, 16, 846-851.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

Rogers, C. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework. In (Ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context. New York: McGraw Hill.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Seeman, T. E., Berkman, L. F., Gulanski, B. I., Robbins, R. J., Greenspan, S. L., Charpentier, P.A., et al. (1995). Self-esteem and neuroendocrine response to challenge: MacArthur studies of successful aging. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 39, 69-84.

Shimizu, M., & Pelham. B. W. (2004). The unconscious cost of good fortune: Implicit and explicit self-esteem, positive life events, and health. Health Psychology, 23, 101-105.

Steptoe, A., & Marmot, M. (2003). Burden of psychological adversity and vulnerability in middle age: Associations with biobehavioral risk factors and quality of life. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68, 531-537.

Taylor, S. E. (2012). Health Psychology (8th ed.). New York: McGraw HIll.

Parenting: To Spank or Not to Spank?

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

              Spanking has been used throughout history to discipline children, but many psychologists believe spanking is not necessary and may have negative consequences (Berger, 2009; Feldman, 2011;  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "spanking is never an appropriate discipline technique" (Feldman, 2011, p. 257). The research that concluded not to spank children was able to correlate aggressive behaviors, criminal behaviors, mental illnesses, and antisocial behaviors throughout childhood and adulthood to spanking (  Furthermore, some research suggests that children who are physically disciplined may grow up to be abusers themselves (Feldman, 2011). According to the cycle of violence hypothesis, "the abuse and neglect that children suffer predispose them as adults to abuse or neglect their own children" (Feldman, 2011, p. 255).   

            Spanking can teach a child to be physically aggressive because when a parent spanks their child they are reinforcing, role modeling, and over all teaching their child violence (Berger, 2009).  According to B.F. Skinner's research on operant conditioning, spanking would be used as reinforcement to correct an unwanted behavior (Berger, 2009, Schneinder, Gruman, Coutts, 2012).  By correlating spanking (physical pain) to an unwanted behavior (child broke a rule), parents will deter their children from repeating the behavior. The unwanted behavior may be rectified rather quickly if the child learns that pain is correlated to the behavior, but parents are also teaching their children violence and aggression (Berger, 2009).  Spanking does not necessarily guarantee that a child will grow up and be a bully or an abuser, but it can increase the risk, especially when combined with other factors, such as the environment, personality, and the temperament of the child (Berger, 2009).  Some children do not become permanently damaged because they are resilient, which means they are "able to overcome the circumstances that place a child at high risk for psychological or physical damage" (Feldman, 2011, p. 256).    

            The ultimate goal in disciplining children is to teach children right from wrong, so when they are out in society on their own they will know how to behave as moral human beings. Some research shows that other techniques, such as time-outs work effectively at teaching children right from wrong behaviors, but it all depends on the child (Berger, 2009).  According to, there are good strategies to discipline children that don't involve physical punishment.  To teach a child moral reasoning can be difficult, but with patience, dedication, and consistency it can be done without physical punishment. 

            First advices, to "let your child see what will happen if he or she doesn't behave" because "a child will learn best when he or she learns themselves."  This is considered natural consequences and can be used as long as the child's safety is not jeopardized.  Second, a parent should make logical consequences for the unwanted behavior.  A parent must "create a consequence" and be firm, calm, and be "prepared to follow through right away (" Next, parents are directed to withhold privileges from a child, such as something that is valuable and related to the misbehavior, but never withhold what a child needs, such as meals.  Time-out is also a good way to discipline, but usually only works well on children age 2 to 5 years old ( 

            Whichever style of discipline is used to correct children's unwanted behaviors is left up to the parents, but many psychologists agree that the consequences of the discipline can last a life-time.  Hitting and yelling at children is not a good discipline strategy for parents or caregivers to use because it is teaching through operant conditioning, reinforcement, and social learning that violence is a way to communicate with one another.  For example, a child who is spanked at home may go to school and hit another child when they experience unwanted behaviors from their peers, such as taking a toy away during play.  The 5 year old may have learned from his or her parents that hitting is used on him or her when they want a behavior to stop, so when the 5 year old wants a child at school to stop an unwanted behavior, she will use what she has learned at home, and hit.  The child has not been shown how to communicate effectively through verbal communication; instead he or she has been shown to use physical or aggressive behaviors to communicate about unwanted actions. Most research agrees that spanking is not good for a child's development, but if spanking does occur the following is recommended:   "The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason. If a spanking is spontaneous, parents should later explain calmly why they did it, the specific behavior that provoked it, and how angry they felt. They also might apologize to their child for their loss of control. This usually helps the youngster to understand and accept the spanking, and it models for the child how to remediate a wrong ("  



Berger, K. S. (2009). The developing person through childhood and adolescence. (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.      

Feldman, R. S. (2011). Development across the life span. (Sixth Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A. & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.




Why Is It That We Can Only Buy Farm-Raised Salmon?

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

Salmon is my favorite fish to eat.  Why is it that when we go to buy it, the only kind the grocery stores have available is farm-raised?  Obviously the same standards don't apply to salmon as they do to beef and pork.   Farm-raised salmon have seven times the levels of PCB's as wild salmon, have 30 times the number of sea lice, are fed chemicals to give them color, are administered antibiotics at higher levels than any other livestock, and have less Omega 3's due to lack of a wild diet (, 2010).

It's no wonder that we are hearing about super infections that are immune to antibiotics.  Salmon are given higher concentrations of antibiotics than any other livestock.  Those antibiotics are passed on to you and me, making all of us more antibiotic resistant.

When I go to my doctor, he always tells me to eat more Omega 3 foods like salmon so my heart stays healthy.  What is healthy about eating salmon that has been chalked full of chemicals, dyes, and antibiotics.  The doctors say the good outweighs the bad, but just to be on the safe side, you better not eat salmon more than once a week!


Negative ecological effects exist as well; it is a common occurrence for farmed salmon to escape from sea cages.  The non-native salmon species compete with native wild species for food and habitat.  If the farmed salmon are native, they can interbreed with the wild native salmon.  Such interbreeding can reduce genetic diversity, disease resistance and adaptability.  As an example, in 2004, about 500,000 salmon and trout escaped from ocean net pens off Norway.  Around Scotland, 600,000 salmon were released during storms.  Commercial fishermen targeting wild salmon can easily catch escaped farm salmon.  At one stage, in the Faroe Islands, 20 to 40 percent of all fish caught were escaped farm salmon (

Independent studies have confirmed elevated levels of mercury in rockfish near salmon farms. It is well known that high amounts of mercury can damage the nervous system of people and animals. In the marine environment, mercury is usually found in the inorganic form. The mercury in lakes, streams and oceans can be transformed by bacteria to methyl mercury, an organic and more toxic form. Methyl mercury is the predominant form of mercury in fish and binds tightly to the proteins in fish tissue. Methyl mercury is of greater health significance because it is the form to which humans are primarily exposed when consuming fish as food.

Environmental and human health effects of mercury are a concern because mercury can accumulate in the fatty tissue of rockfish and people. Prolonged exposure to mercury damages the human nervous system (Lohan, 2009).

Just because these fish companies want to make more money doesn't mean that we have to go along with it.  Don't buy farm-raised fish.  The best way to stay healthy is to eat natural and organic foods.  Only buy wild fish, grass-fed beef, organic dairy, and crops free of pesticides and modification.  We need to change the sociocultural perspective.  Sociocultural approach is based on the assumption that our beliefs and attitudes towards certain things like organic eating are learned from others.  Knowledge is key and the more people are aware of how unhealthy farm-raised fish is then the quicker we can change people's eating habits.  Eat healthy and stay healthy!


Jampolis, M. 2010. Is farm-raised salmon as healthy as wild? Retrieved from

Lohan, T. 2009. How Farm-Raised Salmon Are Turning Our Oceans Into Dangerous and Polluted Feedlots. Retreived from 2013 Aquaculture of Salmon. Retrieved from


The benefits of health psychology

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

Psychology is an interesting field because of the variety of different subfields that it contains. Most people have heard of clinical psychology through media exposure, but this exposure is usually limited to a psychodynamic psychotherapist listening to a client talk while they lay a couch. I think this is a shame since the findings of psychological research are so widespread and can have serious implications for your health, and I'm not just talking about mental health.

health psychology 1.jpg

(Image courtesy of University of California, Irvine)


Health psychology is a relatively new field of applied psychology that uses psychological principles to "promote changes in people's attitudes, behavior and thinking about health and illness" (The British Psychological Society, 2013). A simpler way to understand health psychology is that it aims to promote health and prevent illness (Lafreniere & Cramer, 2012). Key to understanding health psychology is the bio-psychosocial model.


The bio-psychosocial model was developed by George Engel in response to the biomedical stance that all illnesses are related to biological deficiencies (Engel, 1977). Engel proposed that health was determined not only by biological factors but also by psychological and social factors. An extension of this thinking is that in order to help people in the physical healing process, we need to pay attention to their psychological and social needs in combination with treating their medical needs (Suls & Rothman, 2004). Current research has supported this understanding of total health treatment.


(Image courtesy of META-Medicine UK)


For example, Arpino, Iavarone, Parlato, and Moraci (2004) looked at how depressive symptoms in patients had an impact on back surgery recovery. They found that depression plays a negative role in the surgical outcome indicating that psychological factors need to be considered as part of the medical treatment (Arpino, Iavarone, Parlato, & Moraci, 2004). Similarly, Tully, Baker, and Knight (2008) looked at how depression and anxiety are related to mortality after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. They found that anxiety was significantly associated with increased mortality risk after surgery (Tully, Baker, & Knight, 2008). Further, health psychology research has developed adjustment interventions that can be used not only in the period surrounding diagnosis and treatment, but also in adjustment to life afterwards (Stanton, Revenson, & Tennen, 2007; Ridder, Geenen, & Kuijer, 2008).


It is clear from these findings that psychological issues have an impact on physical health not only before and during medical treatment, but in the recovery period afterward. The problem then is if people have been shown to be helped by attending to mental health in combination with physical health but remain ignorant of the possible benefits, how do we educate them so they know what treatments are available?


The most direct manner may simply be through media campaigns armed with informational appeals to the benefits of health psychology (Lafreniere & Cramer, 2012). These awareness campaigns can help to reduce the stigmas surrounding mental healthcare and promote acceptance of psychological treatment. Even more important, primary care physicians may need to screen and promote integrating psychological treatment with medical treatment as their status as an authority figure may help those resistant to treatment due to mental health care stigmas (Loscalzo, Clark, & Holland, 2011). A combination of both the informational campaigns and the promotion by the primary care physician should ensure that patients understand at least what options may be most beneficial to their care.


(image courtesy of I Write Medical)

Unfortunately, this may be slow to occur. Stigmas regarding mental healthcare are still prevalent and prevent people from seeking out the help that they may need (Corrigan, 2004). Fortunately, the development of sound clinical skills and scientific backing over the second half of the 20th century has led to an increased integration of psychological courses in medical training (Pickren, 2007). It may just be that a new generation of doctors with a better understanding of how psychological processes impact physical health is needed to really push for this change. It may be slow in the coming, but through promotion of the bio-psychosocial model and awareness campaigns, the benefit of psychological treatment in combination with traditional medical treatment can become the new norm.



Arpino, L., Iavarone, A., Parlato, C., & Moraci, A. (2004). Prognostic role of depression after lumbar disc surgery. Neurological Sciences, 25(3), 145-147.

Corrigan, P. (2004). How Stigma Interferes With Mental Health Care. American Psychologist, 59(7), 614-625.

Engel, G. L. (1977). The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine. Science, 196(4286), 129-136.

Lafreniere, K. D., & Cramer, K. M. (2012). Applying Social Psychology to Health. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts (Eds.), Applied Social Psychology (2 ed., pp. 165-190). Los Angeles: Sage.

Loscalzo, M., Clark, K. L., & Holland, J. (2011). Successful strategies for implementing biopsychosocial screening. Psycho-Oncology, 20(5), 455-462.

Pickren, W. (2007). Psychology and medical education: A historical perspective from the United States. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(3), 179-181.

Suls, J., & Rothman, A. (2004). Evolution of the Biopsychosocial Model: Prospects and Challenges for Health Psychology. Health Psychology, 23(2), 119-125.

The British Psychological Society. (2013). Becoming a health psychologist. Retrieved from The British Psychological Society:

Tully, P. J., Baker, R. A., & Knight, J. L. (2008). Anxiety and depression as risk factors for mortality after coronary artery bypass surgery. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64(3), 285-290.


The benefits of health psychology

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

Psychology is an interesting field because of the variety of different subfields that it contains. Most people have heard of clinical psychology through media exposure, but this exposure is usually limited to a psychodynamic psychotherapist listening to a client talk while they lay a couch. I think this is a shame since the findings of psychological research are so widespread and can have serious implications for your health, and I'm not just talking about mental health.

health psychology 1.jpg

(Image courtesy of University of California, Irvine)


Health psychology is a relatively new field of applied psychology that uses psychological principles to "promote changes in people's attitudes, behavior and thinking about health and illness" (The British Psychological Society, 2013). A simpler way to understand health psychology is that it aims to promote health and prevent illness (Lafreniere & Cramer, 2012). Key to understanding health psychology is the bio-psychosocial model.


The bio-psychosocial model was developed by George Engel in response to the biomedical stance that all illnesses are related to biological deficiencies (Engel, 1977). Engel proposed that health was determined not only by biological factors but also by psychological and social factors. An extension of this thinking is that in order to help people in the physical healing process, we need to pay attention to their psychological and social needs in combination with treating their medical needs (Suls & Rothman, 2004). Current research has supported this understanding of total health treatment.


(Image courtesy of META-Medicine UK)


For example, Arpino, Iavarone, Parlato, and Moraci (2004) looked at how depressive symptoms in patients had an impact on back surgery recovery. They found that depression plays a negative role in the surgical outcome indicating that psychological factors need to be considered as part of the medical treatment (Arpino, Iavarone, Parlato, & Moraci, 2004). Similarly, Tully, Baker, and Knight (2008) looked at how depression and anxiety are related to mortality after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. They found that anxiety was significantly associated with increased mortality risk after surgery (Tully, Baker, & Knight, 2008). Further, health psychology research has developed adjustment interventions that can be used not only in the period surrounding diagnosis and treatment, but also in adjustment to life afterwards (Stanton, Revenson, & Tennen, 2007; Ridder, Geenen, & Kuijer, 2008).


It is clear from these findings that psychological issues have an impact on physical health not only before and during medical treatment, but in the recovery period afterward. The problem then is if people have been shown to be helped by attending to mental health in combination with physical health but remain ignorant of the possible benefits, how do we educate them so they know what treatments are available?


The most direct manner may simply be through media campaigns armed with informational appeals to the benefits of health psychology (Lafreniere & Cramer, 2012). These awareness campaigns can help to reduce the stigmas surrounding mental healthcare and promote acceptance of psychological treatment. Even more important, primary care physicians may need to screen and promote integrating psychological treatment with medical treatment as their status as an authority figure may help those resistant to treatment due to mental health care stigmas (Loscalzo, Clark, & Holland, 2011). A combination of both the informational campaigns and the promotion by the primary care physician should ensure that patients understand at least what options may be most beneficial to their care.


(image courtesy of I Write Medical)

Unfortunately, this may be slow to occur. Stigmas regarding mental healthcare are still prevalent and prevent people from seeking out the help that they may need (Corrigan, 2004). Fortunately, the development of sound clinical skills and scientific backing over the second half of the 20th century has led to an increased integration of psychological courses in medical training (Pickren, 2007). It may just be that a new generation of doctors with a better understanding of how psychological processes impact physical health is needed to really push for this change. It may be slow in the coming, but through promotion of the bio-psychosocial model and awareness campaigns, the benefit of psychological treatment in combination with traditional medical treatment can become the new norm.



Arpino, L., Iavarone, A., Parlato, C., & Moraci, A. (2004). Prognostic role of depression after lumbar disc surgery. Neurological Sciences, 25(3), 145-147.

Corrigan, P. (2004). How Stigma Interferes With Mental Health Care. American Psychologist, 59(7), 614-625.

Engel, G. L. (1977). The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine. Science, 196(4286), 129-136.

Lafreniere, K. D., & Cramer, K. M. (2012). Applying Social Psychology to Health. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts (Eds.), Applied Social Psychology (2 ed., pp. 165-190). Los Angeles: Sage.

Loscalzo, M., Clark, K. L., & Holland, J. (2011). Successful strategies for implementing biopsychosocial screening. Psycho-Oncology, 20(5), 455-462.

Pickren, W. (2007). Psychology and medical education: A historical perspective from the United States. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(3), 179-181.

Suls, J., & Rothman, A. (2004). Evolution of the Biopsychosocial Model: Prospects and Challenges for Health Psychology. Health Psychology, 23(2), 119-125.

The British Psychological Society. (2013). Becoming a health psychologist. Retrieved from The British Psychological Society:

Tully, P. J., Baker, R. A., & Knight, J. L. (2008). Anxiety and depression as risk factors for mortality after coronary artery bypass surgery. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64(3), 285-290.


Being Skinny Doesn't Mean You're Healthy

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks


One of the biggest stereotypes in America is that if you are skinny or within weight standards you are healthy. Well I am here to tell you that is not the case. Body weight is not an accurate reading of the overall conditions of your body. When looking at whether a person is totally healthy we look at gender and genetic factors, not just body weight. Just because you do not carry the physical attributes of an unhealthy individual does not deplete you from the harsh world of: high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and several other diseases and disorders.

According to Dr. Jimmy Bell, a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College, London, "Being thin doesn't automatically mean you're not fat."  Since 1994, Bell and his team have scanned nearly 800 people with MRI machines to create "fat maps" showing where people store fat. In summary, people who maintain their weight through diet rather than exercise are likely to have major deposits of internal fat, even if they are otherwise slim (Press, 2007). 

WOW! So it's true, you don't have to be fat to be fat?

Yes. This is due largely to the fact that chronic illness are influenced by lifestyle factors such as whether or not people smoke, their diet and levels of physical activity, and even their stress levels (Schneider, Coutts & Gruman, 2013).

Instilling good health and changing poor ones is what helps with primary prevention. Some things that can help are:

1. Eating breakfast each day

2. Exercising regularly (Atleast 30 mins cardio)

3. Having no more than 10% body fat

4. No Smoking

5. No Drinking

6. Getting Good Sleep

These habits are not just limited to the skinny fat individuals they are great primary prevention tactics for all persons, despite age, gender, and health status. Positive social support from family members, friends, acquaintances, and others are generally exceptional measures to help change behavior habits. By using social support we increase our chances of being successful within our endeavors to live a healthier lifestyle.

However, one thing is for sure, when looking at being fit dieting is not enough. You can have an appearance of being thin and be as unhealthy as a person 6 times your size. By using good health habits and exercising on a continuous basis we improve the chances of being healthier.


Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2013). Applied Social Psychology, Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

Press, A. (2007, May 11). Thin people can be fat on the inside. NBC News. Retrieved from


Weight Loss and Motivation

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks


A few years ago while I was sleeping someone stole my metabolism.  I have searched everywhere for it only to come up empty-handed.  I am certain of this fact because I seem to gain weight by simply watching other people eat.  Unfortunately whoever stole my metabolism also ran off with my motivation to lose weight.  My doctor is very concerned with my present predicament because he constantly lectures me about diabetes, my cholesterol levels, and my increased risks of a heart attack or a stroke.  After each lecture I suggest that maybe his scale needs to be recalibrated.  Despite the fact that my doctor thinks that I have a circus mirror at home and, therefore, live in a blissfully delusional skinny world, I am the one who has to wear my clothing.  I can practically hear the threads of my jeans screaming as they are stretched beyond their boundaries. 

Denial is not my problem--taking action about my weight is.  I know that I need to lose the extra weight not only to improve my physical health but to also improve my emotional well-being.  When you are overweight it makes you feel bad both physically and emotionally.  The stages of change model recognizes that not everyone responds to behavioral change or is motivated to change behaviors in the same way (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 182).  According to the stages of change model individuals change their health behaviors by going through complex processes that are referred to by the model as stages (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 183).  Apparently I am perpetually stuck somewhere between the first stage of precontemplation and the second stage of contemplation and I can only dream about reaching the final stage of maintenance.  I am stuck between stages because I know that I need to lose weight and from time to time I get up the nerve to finally plan when I will start my diet and exercise regime (contemplation) only to throw in the towel (precontemplation).  A year ago I was feeling especially ambitious and entered into the preparation and action stages.  I planned when I was going to start my diet (the week of finals), I planned exactly what I would (or more accurately would not) be eating, and on the first day of finals I took action and began my diet.  On the fifth day of my diet I was tossed back to the precontemplation stage when the continuous rumbling of my stomach began to interfere with my concentration on my exams (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 181). 

The stages of change model accounts for relapses when individuals are attempting to make behavioral changes.  If you falter in the action stage you have not blown it.  You simply move back to the contemplation stage and come up with a new game plan, such as not starting a diet the week of finals.  No matter which stage you falter in you just go back to the contemplation stage or sometimes the precontemplation stage and hopefully start the process all over until you finally reach the maintenance stage after 6 months of successful behavioral change (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 181).

If my weight loss regime would have been part of an intervention based on the stages of change model I would have received materials or programs tailored to my characteristics during each stage of change that included feedback of my progress.  Research has shown that when individuals receive feedback regarding their progress or behaviors they are more successful at reaching their behavioral change goals (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 182).  I most certainly would have received something that strongly disapproved of starting a diet during finals week thus increasing my chances of successfully starting and maintaining a diet after exams.



Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012).  Applied social psychology:  Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications, Inc.



Teenage Obesity

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

By the time youth reach adolescence and become a teenager, then it is the beginning of the age of choice. Their interest in nutrition, whether it be valid information or misinformation can come from experiences of personal origins (Whitney, Rolfes p.560). Being a teenager can have its ups and downs.

            This becomes the so-called age of either fad dieting or piling it on. Although teens have been made aware of the four food. Societies fast pace living have taken the so called family meal, that gathered in the evening and dispersed them into the gobble this society. Energy and nutrient needs are increased during adolescence and peak and do not level again until the teen enters the adult stage (Whitney, Rolfes. (2002) p.571).

            Teens are aware that eating unhealthy can lead to medical issues later in life. The U.S D.A food pyramid is balanced and in moderation. Teens need education in school with a whole grain, fruit and vegetable influence (Convery. P.209). Having a good education on healthy foods will help them choose wisely.


            Why do we as humans knowing the impact of our super sized menus insist  on making the same mistakes knowing the statistics of Heart Disease, Diabetes, etc. Teenage obesity is not just a physical effect, it can also impact mental health. Depression and discrimination in cases of peer pressure can also be a factor (p.1).

            Fortunately social psychologists attitudes can change through social influences. This type of so called invention something through persuasion, when messages are brought to the attention on healthy life styles (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts. (2012) p.171). Teenagers are voluble  in areas of self esteem. This is where the influences of family, peer and even school need to join the band wagon, When it comes to social influence on our teens (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts (2012) p.173).

            Finally, parents need to incorporate healthy eating at home. This also needs to be implemented in school cafeterias. Companies need to fill vending machines with healthier alternatives. Local communities need to encourage exercise opportunities to get teens away from T.V's and out burning calories. Remember we don't want obese teens to become obese adults.


obesity boy.bmp      


Convey, Sean. (1998) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Caring for your Body. P.209.

10 tips to prevent obesity. Retrieved from

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012) Applied Social Psychology:

            Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks.

            CA: Sage Publication. P.171,173

Whitney, Eleonor Noss, Rolfes, Sharon Rady, (2002) Understanding Nutrition 9th Edition.

            Chapter 16. Life Style Nutrition Adolescence  PP. 560-561



Don't Judge a Book by Its' Cover: Bias in a Healthcare Setting

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

          Finally making the decision to go see a doctor for what could be, or at least one thinks is a serious condition or ailment, can at times be a stressful process in itself. Gaging whether one is even sick, if it's in their head, is it serious enough where one should even see a doctor, what will one benefit from seeing him/her (e.g., will he be able to cure me, improve my condition, or at least diagnose me, etc.), will it be worth the money, time, and effort needed to for this decision, based on the health belief model these are all cognitive and emotional obstacles and thought processes people must get past and go through before deciding to go see a doctor, or make any acute or long-term behavior change (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). After finally making the decision to go see a doctor, you expect the doctor, and expert in his/her field, to treat and diagnose you equally and with the highest level of care their abilities allow, but unfortunately, this often isn't the case. Now, I'm not talking about conscious preferential treatment caused by nepotism or active prejudices; these would be easier to control, improve, and/or manipulate since the person is aware of them, I'm referring to unconscious biases held towards different population groups (e.g., gender, race, age, ethnicity, SES, etc.) that creep in while practicing medicine (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). In order to lessen these unconscious biases, doctors and other healthcare professionals must become more self-aware. Self-awareness will decrease the occurrence of the different biases and the harmful effects they can have on patients and the healthcare/diagnostic process.


            These different biases have different effects on different people on different levels in general within a healthcare setting. For instance, women receive less medication after a heart attack, blacks are less likely to get a kidney or liver transplant, and Hispanics have a 50% less chance of getting narcotic-level pain medications after a bone fracture than white patients (Orenstein, 2011). Bias is also prevalently seen in the testing of a sub-disease of the leading cause of death in men and women, coronary heart disease (CHD), killing 385,000 people annually ("Heart disease," 2012). A study performed form 1999-2006 showed that less than 50% of young adults (ages 20-35) were screened for high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), whether these young adults hand no CHD risk factors, or 1 or more risk factors smoking, hypertension, family history, and obesity) (Keenan, Kuklina & Yoon, 2010). In contrast, 85% of 45-64yr olds and 89% of 65yrs and older were screened for high LDL levels (Keenan, Kuklina & Yoon, 2010). Of these young adults, about 50% of women were screened and less than 40% of men were screened (Keenan, Kuklina & Yoon, 2010). These disparities demonstrate a significant age bias as well as a gender bias towards preventative screenings with regards to CHD.


            These biases don't just affect or are aimed at the person/patient directly, based on physical and/or measureable characteristics (e.g., age, sex, race, etc.), but these biases are also diagnostically based as well. Known as the anchoring effect, or even the availability heuristic, initial diagnoses and/or observed symptoms have a tendency to prime healthcare providers to diagnoses and treatments that are related to an initial diagnosis or symptoms observed (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Once a clinician is locked on to a certain diagnosis or diagnoses, they will tend to stick with that initial decision, ignoring or understating new symptoms of information (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). In connection, the physicians may also find themselves seeking out specific symptoms and test results to confirm and/or backup their diagnosis, this effect is known as confirmation bias, and this and the anchoring effect are interdependently connected, with anchoring preceding confirmation (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). All of these biases not only negatively affect the patients experiencing them personally, society as a whole economically suffers from these minority-based disparities as well. According to a report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, between the years 2003 and 2006, $229 billion were added to health care spending due to these biased differences (Orenstein, 2011).            


            A call to action to correct this humanistic phenomenon of unconscious biases has been developed and studied. This new way of thinking and molding your practicing habits around is centered on self-awareness and is known as the rational-emotive model (Borrell-Carrio & Epstein, 2004). This model focuses on two factors effecting errors in diagnosing and treating patients, 1) regularity of reframing their first hypothesis, and 2) prematurely closing the clinical act so at to avoid inconsistencies, low-level decision rules, and emotions (Borrell-Carrio & Epstein, 2004). This model consists of two phases; 1) exploratory phase and 2) resolution phase (Borrell-Carrio & Epstein, 2004). This model is supposed to change physician's behaviors, specifically reframing original hypothesis when inconsistent and/or new information is presented (Borrell-Carrio & Epstein, 2004).


            Models, like the one just described and others relating to it in which they help minimize the existence of bias in health care, will clearly both improve the health and health-outcomes of minority patients, but also lessen the already sky-rocketing health care costs in the U.S. Self-awareness will allow for the change in behavior needed to correct these biases, the actual perception of the previously unconscious biases, and an increase in empathy towards others, which will aide in the awareness and correction of current biases. The adoption of models such as the rational-emotive model, and an increased self-awareness will help make the whole health care experience a lot smoother, more enjoyable, and a lot more successful and efficient.



Borrell-Carrio, F., & Epstein, R. M. (2004). Preventing errors in clinical practice: A call for self-awareness. Annals of Family Medicine, 2(4), 310-316. Retrieved from


Heart disease. (2012, October 16). Retrieved from


Keenan, N. L., Kuklina, E. V., & Yoon, P. W. (2010). Prevalence of coronary heart disease risk factors and screening for high cholesterol levels among young adults, United States, 1999-2006. Annals of Family Medicine, 8(4),327-333. Retrieved from


Orenstein, D. (2011, March 3). Greater awareness of bias would help reduce health disparities. Retrieved from


Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. (2nd ed., pp. 85-111, 165-190). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

American Health Care: Where do we go from here?

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

For the last few years many have found themselves in uncharted waters. They have lost jobs, had their wages cut or had their positions terminated through corporate downsizing due to a "soft" economy. When faced with the task of making financial decisions that require some serious consideration such as dropping the family's health coverage or making a mortgage payment the health coverage was the obvious choice thus begins the vicious cycle that America will struggle with for decades to come.

There is also a resurrection of old terminology that is sadly and disturbingly taking place. Once again terms like "Whooping Cough", "Tuberculosis" and "Polio" are being spoken. The last decade has seen a rise in the once thought eradicated diseases. The CDC has recently posted an advisory regarding polio and travel outside of the United States. India, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are currently experiencing outbreaks. These areas are not the only areas experiencing outbreaks of an old disease, there is a medium sized, fairly developed nation with a reasonably stable economy that is experiencing a serious increase in Tuberculosis.

TB, as most have come to call it, can be contracted by anyone. The most at risk individuals are those that have weakened immune systems caused by HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, certain cancers or malnutrition. The medium sized nation in the discussion had a total of 10,528 reported cases of Tuberculosis in 2011, the tally for 2012 has not been reported yet, this number is so disturbing to the medical experts in this nation they have revived the old information flyers and educational campaigns aimed at eradicating TB. The nation in question is the United States of America. These details came directly from the Center for Disease Control. This increase has been attributed to the increase in poverty and lack of affordable healthcare. The CDC has actually started a drive to get the news media involved. Here is a request sent out by the CDC in September of 2012.

If you are a member of the news media and need more information, please or contact the News Media Line at CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (404-639-8895 or

There are hundreds of articles that are published daily regarding the need for access to health care by "all". Epidemics start because of a lack of preventative treatment. Just a few years ago if a person were to contract the flu they would stay at home until healed to ensure they did not infect others. Today a new trend has developed; people go to work regardless of their health. This is an added benefit of a bad economy. It is time for a change. The government will need to get involved. We know the problem and it starts with getting health care access for everyone. America faced this battle before. The interventions required are:

Public Education: Through news media, television and in schools and the work place the American public must be educated about these diseases and how they are contracted.

World Education: Organizations such as UNICEF and World Health Organization will need to spread the word about the diseases as well as share the types of cures and vaccinations that will help get those diseases back under control.

Vaccinations: Many diseases were thought to have been eradicated and therefore vaccinations stopped. This process will need to be restarted and not just here in America but Worldwide.

Diagnosis and Quarantine: Even though it sounds extreme the diagnosis of the disease and segregation from the public will be required to keep an infected person from spreading the bacteria.

Continued Monitoring: We must not slip back into the comfort zone and allow this disease to keep coming back. Continued monitoring of reported cases around the World will give insight into where disease hotspots may be occurring and where focus needs to be placed.

Access to health care for all: This is a must. Every American regardless of race, creed, color, religion or financial status deserves access to health care and most importantly preventative health care. To accomplish this controls will have to be put in place. Insurance corporations can no longer deny claims. Hospitals will be held to standard allowable pricing for services rendered. Doctors care cost will also be held to standard allowable pricing. Insurance premiums will be held to reasonable levels as determined by averaged per capita earnings. Followed by continued monitoring to determine how effective the programs and to provide proper adjustments as required.

It would be great if it were that easy. The question of how to provide and fund a revised American health care system is a very tough one to solve however we have to start somewhere and a good start is bringing jobs back to America and allowing Americans to regain the pride and dignity of supporting our families and communities and anyone else in the World that needs as we have for almost 250 years.


CDC TB Fact Sheet, Trends in Tuberculosis in the United States, Center for Disease Control, Retrieved 2-7-2013

Tuberculosis: An Overview, Center for Disease Control, Retrieved 2-7-2013

World Health Organization. WHO, How many TB cases and Deaths are there? Retrieved 2-7-2013

UNICEF, The story of the end of Polio throughout human history, . Retrieve 2-7-2013

Polio - Retrieved 2-7-2013





Compassion in Action

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

In cancer hospitals and clinics around the United States there are almost always postings for support groups and resources for cancer patients and their families. It's clear that social support as a means of intervention to improve health is not just a popular congregation of people, but genuinely alleviates the negative affects of cancer and its treatment. What is social support? It's resources that we receive from other people (Gruman, Schneider, & Coutts, 2012). There are many forms of social support such as emotional, tangible or network support that can address personal emotional needs to a sense of community around a common interest (Gruman, Schneider, & Coutts, 2012).

Reading about this in the text this week reminded me of my own experience with social support specifically as it relates to health. Five years ago I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer. The diagnosis was so unexpected and happened so fast that I didn't really have time to comprehend the full force of the diagnosis. Cancer was something I assumed happened to people much older than me and I was captive in disbelief for quite a while. Not denial, but disbelief where I couldn't believe that it was actually happening to me. My disbelief kept me in a sense of humor about it while my friends and family were far more concerned. I found this to be opposite of what one would expect - that the cancer patient would be the ones concerned, worried or scared while caretakers kept up a sense of humor.

As time and treatment went on though, reality settled in and the pain and discomfort of treatment began to wear thin on me. Medications to control pain caused disruptive mood swings and a hopeless outlook on my condition. My treatment was taking place a regular hospital and not a facility designated only for cancer treatment. In this regard, I felt like a goldfish in a bowl - that I was alone and isolated with worried onlookers staring at me hoping I was going to be okay. I was surrounded by well meaning "cheer up" messages and "I know how you feel" forms of compassion but I knew no one really knew what was happening or what my experience was.

But I had a small group of friends who understood that compassion through action was what was needed, not greeting card messages. One friend brought me a lap desk (since I couldn't sit up) so I could eat and access things like my remote control easier. Another friend came and made a fridge full of food for me and did laundry. Another friend - a hair dresser - came and washed my hair and styled it for me, even though I had no where to go. Though I know I received messages of great concern and compassion, I don't remember those messages. I was too mentally absent from medications to recall what those were. But I remember the compassion in action support vividly and how it helped me want to recover and not sink into self-pity.

But one of the biggest changes in support was a form of network support. Because my treatment recommendations were severe, I transferred myself and my case to a cancer research hospital. From the moment I stepped in, I felt I was finally in a place where I wasn't the lonely goldfish in a bowl but rather one of many in a large aquarium.  No one tried to superficially elevate my mood by saying "it'll all be okay" - because in a cancer hospital, no one knows that. With other patients we spoke head-on into the problems, the fears, the pain and quite often, our own personal concern for our caretaker's mental health.

I wouldn't presume to say my approach, beliefs and attitudes towards cancer to be universal. Every cancer patient needs social support in their own distinctive way. Some may want to avoid the topic of their illness, some may (like I) feel a strong sense of social support from explicitly discussing it. When I'm asked for advice on how someone should talk to a friend who's been diagnosed with cancer I always say, "roll up your sleeves, put compassion to action and ask them directly how you can help."  

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

HPV Recipients MIA?

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks
The Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a disease that is spread through genital contact with infected persons (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). Some of the strains of the HPV virus cause cervical cancer in about 12,000 U.S. women per year (CDC, 2012). Two vaccines are currently available to prevent the strains most often associated with the onset of cervical cancer and are recommended for girls between the ages of eleven and twelve (CDC, 2012). However, there has been some resistance to the use of the vaccine for a variety of reasons. In order to effectively promote the use of the HPV vaccine it is important an intervention make use of the social influence of physicians over patients and parents. When trying to create an intervention that targets people's health it is important to remember that people are not only concerned with their biological well-being; there are also social factors and psychological factors at work; taking this approach to solving health problems is known as the biopsychosocial model (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 169). In the case of HPV, it must be understood that there is not only concern for preventing biological factors such as contact with the virus. There are also psychological concerns about people's beliefs such as the attitude some parents hold that giving the vaccine is equivalent to giving permission for young girls to be sexually active. The social relationship between the patients, parents and doctors is also important when discussing HPV prevention because patients and their parents rely heavily on the influence of their doctors (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 169). Health promotion entails any action that is undertaken in an effort to urge others to participate in behaviors that are considered beneficial to health (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012, p. 170). In the case of the HPV vaccine, the ultimate goal is that of primary prevention, which is simply to say that the goal is to stop females from contracting the strains of HPV that may lead to cervical cancer by vaccinating them before they come into contact with the virus (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 170). The goal seems beneficial for all women, so why had less than half of girls between twelve and seventeen actually received the vaccine as of 2010 (Norton, 2011)? It is important to consider not only biological reasons a girl may not be vaccinated, such as other health problems or drug allergies, but also social and psychological constraints. One reason is that immunizing young girls for a disease that is spread through sexual contact interferes with messages regarding abstinence, whether they are imposed by religion or family values (The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 2013). Another is a lack of medical insurance, which can often prevent families from asking for the vaccine because they are unaware of funding assistance that may be available to cover the $400 series of injections (Norton, 2011). There are also parental concerns about the safety of this relatively new vaccination (Knox, 2011). The first step in the intervention is to identify what the problem may be (PSU, 2013, Psychology 424, Lesson 3, p. 1). Research has shown that the HPV vaccine is being under-utilized by those who would benefit most by it (Norton, 2011). Previous methods for increasing vaccine recipients included attempts at introducing state mandates requiring the vaccine or education about its benefits (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2013). Neither of those quelled parental fears about the safety of the vaccine or their unease in providing the vaccine in contradiction to messages of abstinence. Since the initial media campaigns designed to promote the HPV vaccine there have been more studies conducted that could be used to reassure parents if the information is made available, that is the best solution to the problem, which is step two in an intervention (PSU, 2013, Psychology 424, Lesson 3, p. 1). The next step is to set goals and come up with an intervention design (PSU, 2013, Psychology 424, Lesson 3, p. 1). The ultimate goal is to increase the number of HPV vaccines given to girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen. In order to do that there are some objectives that need to be set. First would be to encourage doctors to recommend the vaccine to parents and guardians of young female patients. A study has shown that patients receiving a strong recommendation to get the vaccine by their physician are much more likely to agree to it (Norton, 2011). In order to get doctors to agree to this it would be necessary to provide them with information from studies regarding safety and other concerns parents may have. For example, doctors should be informed of a study conducted in Atlanta found that girls who receive the vaccine are no more likely than those who do not to engage in sexual activity (CBS News, 2012). This information can help doctors reassure concerned parents that providing girls with the vaccine is not tantamount to condoning sexual activity. Further, statistics show that less than 7% of vaccine recipients suffer severe adverse effects from the vaccine, which is known to potentially cause dizziness, syncope, pain at the injection site, nausea, vomiting and/or hypersensitivity (Attkisson, 2008). Doctors should also be informed of programs that will provide free vaccination to uninsured youth so they can address any financial reservations parents may have. If the program were implemented in a single state the outcomes for that state could be compared to national averages for the same time period. Once underway it is important that evaluations of the intervention occur. First, it must be clear that doctors are receiving updates of study findings in order to ensure they have the tools needed to address potential parental concerns. Secondly, self-reports of the frequency with which doctors strongly recommend the vaccine will help determine if there is a break in the chain of the intervention. If doctors are not making recommendations there would be no expectation of an increase in HPV vaccinations. Post-intervention evaluation would result in a direct comparison of the number of girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen who received the vaccine previously and those whose doctors were part of the intervention program. The social influence of doctors, their ability to influence patient/parent beliefs and attitudes, can be used to increase the number of girls who receive the HPV vaccine (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 171). These efforts can be made through persuasion using informational appeals, which is simply an attempt to use factual information to change people's beliefs (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 171). Results could be expected to be better using informational appeals than fear appeals, which are persuasive arguments designed to elicit fear of consequences for non-compliance with getting the vaccine (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 171). Not only is there a true ethical concern about manipulating people by using their fear of future events against them, but as trusted consultants, physicians should rely on a method that has sound scientific framework. Fear appeals have been shown to work in some circumstances and fail in others (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 171). Further, a patient who refuses vaccination my one day be diagnosed with cervical cancer and previous use of fear appeals could actually result in a failure to be tested, diagnosed and/or treated. Doctors have a unique relationship with patients as trusted advisors. This social relationship could help increase the number of HPV vaccines administered to girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen through the use of informational appeals if doctors are informed about the latest studies and statistics so that they can address concerns of patients and parents. Chart taken from Note that HPV is directly linked to nearly 1/3 of cancers worldwide that can be ascribed to infection. References Attkisson, S. (2008). Gardasil HPV Vaccine Side Effects. Retrieved from CBS News (2012). HPV vaccine won't make girls promiscuous, study finds. Retrieved from Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet. Retrieved from Knox, R. (2011). HPV Vaccine: The Science Behind The Controversy. Retrieved from National Conference of State Legislatures (2013). HPV Vaccine. Retrieved from Norton, A. (2011). Girls' HPV vaccination rates falling short. Retrieved from Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2013). Psychology 424, Lesson 3: Intervention and Evaluation. Retrieved from Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psyhcology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (2013). Ethical Issues and Vaccines. Retrieved from

Stress and Sleep Deprivation

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks



        As the semester nears its end, and the time has come for final exams and papers, I, like many students am inclined to feel stress, increased negative affect, a propensity to worry and far less sleep than is imaginable. If you are like me, you may have experienced a time or two in which a particular individual similar to yourself appeared to effortlessly negotiate through a minefield of pressure, emerging seemingly unscathed; leaving you forever puzzled as to the secret of their success. It is reasonable to assess that what is stressful for one person, may not be so for another. However, while we assume that some are naturally less likely to have their cages rattled, we may be overlooking a critical factor giving them the necessary advantage.  Because it is not the stressor itself but the way we respond to it, many people take on their daily challenges with one hand tied behind their back - never to truly realize the root of the problem.  For them, the greatest single disadvantage is the loss of sufficient regular sleep to enable them the proper psychological functioning necessary.

            To better understand the role of sleep upon stress, it may be best to first discuss the basics of stress. Lazarus & Folkman's (1984) transactional model of stress describes the experience of stress as based in the ongoing transactions between people and their environment. Accordingly, the situations, people and events encountered are the stressors, and they may or may not induce feelings of stress.  Stress, is defined as the total response that an organism has to environmental pressures and demands. In humans, it results from transactions that are perceived to exceed or strain available adaptive capacities, creating a threat to well-being (, 2012).

                The perceptions are based on an appraisal or judgment of how to respond to the stressor.  The outcome of which may either be a negative perception of harmfulness that brings about stress, or a more positive one in which the stressor is perceived as an obstacle or challenge that may be overcome.  The critical point is not the nature of the stressor, but rather, how it is appraised.  Almost all adults need eight or more hours of sleep each night to avoid the consequences of sleep deprivation.  As one begins to feel the effects of sleep deprivation, their appraisal of a given stressor gradually becomes more negative. In our fast-paced and demanding 24 hour society, whether it's late-hour schedules with shift work, student all-nighters cramming for exams, or the chronic, partial sleep deprivation in which regular sleep hours on a night to night basis total well below the eight hour mark, such behavior and its effects place humans at a considerable psychological and physical disadvantage in functioning that can be disastrous. 

In general, sleep deprivation is associated with significant changes in normal brain functioning, including increase of anxiety levels, thus further invoking a decrease in goal directed behavior, abstract thinking, learning, memory, adaptation to constant change, regulation of affect and the subsequent diminished ability to reasonably evaluate one's circumstances (Chuah, Dolcos, Chen, Zheng, Parimal, & Chee, 2010).       Acute sleep deprivation over a single night or two can lead to significant dysfunction in cognition and affect (Cain, Silva, Chang, Ronda, & Duffy (2011).  However, a decrease in positive affect is generally the first marker of sleep deprivation; leading to an increase in anxiety and worry (Talbot, McGlinchey, Kaplan, Dahl, & Harvey, 2010).  . 

 The tendency to negatively perceive a stressor when sleep deprived has a biological basis. Accordingly, the brain's amygdala is the primary seat of emotional processing, and the prefrontal cortex controls reason and cognition.  With increased sleep deprivation, the functional connection between the two dramatically suffers (Chuah et al., 2010).  Thus, heightened negative emotions have a diminished ability to be regulated by logical thought.  This in turn yields the unreasonable evaluation of a given stressor, causing excessive anxiety and further negative affect.  Most of us have noticed that in times when we and others we regularly interact with are sleep deprived (as towards the end of a semester), moods tend to flare and interpersonal tensions that normally do not exist instantly develop.  To make things worse, this only adds to a situation we have already perceived as ripe with stress.  Essentially, sleep loss lowers the threshold at which we perceive an event to be stressful (Minkel, Banks, Htaik, Moreta, Jones, McGlinchey, Simpson, & Dinges, 2012).  To compound the matter, the regular experience of stress during the day is likely to interfere with sleep at night (Akerstedt, 2006).  In consideration of the way that stress and sleep loss can each potentiate the effects of the other, we may have a better understanding how a person's threshold becomes lowered to the point of "flying off the handle" at what seems like next to nothing.

             Many adults in the U.S., experience life on this level and much worse, as an estimated 50 to 70 million adults suffer from chronic sleep loss and related disorders (CDC, 2012).  This can be particularly devastating over extended periods of time, as chronic partial sleep deprivation symptoms are more likely to persist and rewire the brain towards the onset of a pathological disorder (Talbot et al., 2010).   

            The ability to adopt and sustain a regular normal sleep schedule may be the single most important aspect enabling us to level the playing field and increase the quality of our lives.  Furthermore, we must maintain some discipline with instilling regular daily events (even if for a few minutes at a time) where we can effectively decompress by doing something that we enjoy.  While every health expert under the sun prescribes regular physical exercise or activity to keep bodyweight down, such can also effectively keep stress levels down (Mayo Clinic, 2012).  While it may seem easy to insist at times that we are getting by just fine with the reduced sleep we are getting, keep in mind that if you begin to fly off the handle at nothing, you are encountering the first symptoms of a drastically maladaptive pattern that is highly predictive of physical and psychological health decline. Most importantly, we are likely to affect many others beyond ourselves.




Askerstedt, T. (2006). Psychosocial stress and impaired sleep. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, 36 (6), 493-501.


Cain, S. W., Silva, E. J., Chang, A., Ronda, J. M., & Duffy, J. F.  (2011).  One night of sleep

      deprivation affects reaction time, but not interference or facilitation in a Stroop Task.  Brain     

      and Cognition, 76, 37-42.  


CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention). (2012). Report on Sleep. Retrieved December 29, 2012 from



Chuah, L.Y., Dolcos, F., Chen, A. K., Zheng, H., Parimal, S., & Chee, M. W. (2010). Sleep            

deprivation and interference by emotional distracters.  Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders

Research, 33, 1305-1313.        


Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer.


Mayo Clinic. (2012). Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress.  Retrieved December 30, 2012 from (2012). Retrieved December 27, 2012 from

Minkel, J. D., Banks, S., Htaik, O., Moreta, M. C., Jones, C.W.,  McGlinchey, E. L., Simpson, N. S., & Dinges, D. F.  (2012).  Sleep deprivation and stressors: evidence for elevated negative affect in response to mild stressors when sleepdeprived.  Emotion.  Retrieved December, 28, 2012 from


Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L., Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E., & Harvey, A. G. (2010).  Sleep

deprivation in adolescents and adults: changes in affect.  Emotion, 10, 831-841.


Pesticides and Trade in the U.S.

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks


How can the United States ban certain pesticides and still be legally able to export it to other countries such as Mexico and other under developed countries?  Big money rules this world and the environment always seems to take a backseat.

Domestic regulations that prohibit the sale of toxic pesticides do not apply internationally.  Even if the pesticides present danger to humans, animals, plants and the environment, they are most often still legal to export.  Harmful effects return to the US through produce containing residues from the dangerous pesticides.

In developing countries, the privileged farmers take all the good land and push the smaller farmers into farms with less fertile soil which causes them to over irrigate and overspray pesticides.  If produce is found with dangerous levels of pesticides then that produce can be banned, however, if the dangerous use of the pesticides is destroying the produce environment, the importing country cannot do anything about it.  If the exporting country chooses to destroy their own environment, other countries do not have any trade leverage to improve environmental practices according to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules (, 2012).

The US pesticide industry has challenged Canada's strict pesticide regulations.  On one case they successfully overturned the ban on MDMA which is a chemical in gasoline that causes nerve damage.  Not only did they get the ban lifted but Canada also had to pay $10 million to compensate the manufacturer Ethyl Corp. for legal fees and lost sales (Kovski, 1995).

There is also concern that countries lower their environmental and social standards in order to gain competitive advantage.  This phenomenon is known at the "race to the bottom" (, 2011).  Producers in the countries where the strict standards are enforced will suffer a competitive disadvantage.

Pesticides will be a battle that lasts for years to come as long as the big corporations are making the big bucks producing it.  The U.S. produces about 32% of the world's total pesticides which is around $12.5 billion per year and rising (  Let's just hope that they spend a portion of that money searching for clean environmental friendly alternatives.

References: (2011). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2. 2006 and 2007 Sales.  Retrieved on 11/28/12 from:

Kovski, A. (1995).  Ethyl's MMT has bright future in U.S., troubles in Canada. (Ethyl Corp.'s methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl gasoline additive).  Highbeam Research.  Retrieved on 11/28/12 from: (2011).  Trade, Globalization, and the Race to the Bottom.  Retrieved on 11/28/12 from: (2012).  Retrieved on 11/28/12 from: 

Factors that lead to addictive smoking

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
 Upon reading another blog about one girl's path to cigarette addition, I began to wonder, how does one casual/social smoker end up addicted, while another will easily quit all together? My story begins a lot like hers: It started around age 14, as we begun to get into the party scene and hang out with the older crowd at school, we begun to be introduced to cigarettes. The older kids were doing it, and my friends were trying it, so I thought "why not". I wasn't particularly concerned with the negative health outcomes that could later ensue because I didn't believe I would ever become addicted. I just thought of it as a new experience, and plus I was under a lot of social pressure. Luckily, I never became addicted, but many of my friends did. Some eventually built up the strength to quit, while others still engage in the habit. I am particularly curious about what factors turn an individual from a social to a regular smoker. About half of those individual who I saw socially smoking actually became regular smokers, the others only continued to do it socially, or quit altogether. I smoked cigarettes once in a while (socially) for years, but in the last few years have stopped altogether. I wonder what are these factors that cause people to go in those separate directions?

The first factor that comes to my mind is biology. Three of my good friends became regular smokers, and one of them still is. They all told me they felt some cravings in the beginning and eventually began to feel addicted. For me, I never felt intense cravings for a cigarette. Sure, I would smoke socially, but mainly because I was bored or thought "why not". For some reason, I never felt those cravings for cigarettes like my three friends did, which evidently lead to their addictions to the substance. Are some people more predisposed to addiction? Is there really such thing as an addictive personality? Similar personality factors seem to be found in people with addictions. They express impulsive behavior, value nonconformity, and have high stress levels. This would suggest that addition is definitely in part due to psychological factors (Nelson).

Another factor that I believe plays a role is family and peers. The only friend I have who continues to smoke also has a mother that smokes. This proposes a problem for several reasons: First, she may have inherited certain traits from her mother which made her more susceptible to become a smoker, she could not feel as compelled the quit, and she may have a more difficult time quitting because cigarettes are always around. I believe the second theory may be more of a contributing factor that we may think. Personally, I knew smoking was extremely unacceptable in my family. My parents even enforced that at a young age. This greatly contributed to me limiting my social smoking of cigarettes. Furthermore, even though my peers were doing it. I never wanted to be seen by the world as a smoker, and that also compelled me to stop completely.

Lastly, I believe education and demographics play a huge role in the issue. Some people end up smokers by lesser fault of their own. They may have been demographically born in an area where all these risk factors pile up. Socio-economic level can also play a part. Those who live below the poverty level are more likely to smoke than those above it. Maybe they were not taught through drug programs in their schooling system, or maybe they were surrounded by smokers themselves. The Oral Cancer Foundation found that smoking is inversely related to education. Individuals with 16 or more years of education smoked the least, while those with less than 11 smoked the most. It's unfortunate that some individuals are placed in such susceptible environments. ("Demographics of tobacco use").

Basically, I believe that there are many different factors an individual ends up as a regular smoker. They could be biologically predisposed, they could see smoking in a less threatening light, or they could be surrounded by negative social influences. It seems that there are biological, psychological, and social factors all come into play. I would be interested in examining this phenomenon further, if anyone has any further ideas about the issue, please feel free to comment.


Nelson, Bryce. "The addictive personality: Common traits are found." New York Times. 19 January 1983: n. page. Web. 5 Oct. 2012. <>.

Oral Cancer Foundation. Demographics of tobacco use. 2010. Web. <>.

Adolescent Peer Influences and Smoking Behavior

| 5 Comments | 1 TrackBack

smoking1.jpg          I began smoking at the age of 14. It did not take very long after experimenting to become a regular, habitual smoker. After reading about how social factors influence the development of smoking, I began to think about how social influences impacted my development. There are a variety of social influences that can produce the acquisition of substance use, including family, peers, and media sources (Schneider, Coutts & Gruman, 2013). Understanding the influences that start smoking behavior can help in the development of interventions to prevent this behavior and reduce the number of deaths associated with smoking. I will present how peers can influence the development of smoking behaviors by examining the findings of current research and two theories.


teensmoking.jpg Research on peer influence has found an association between peer influence and the occurrence of deviant behavior. During adolescence, peers are the source for experimentation with different substances which can lead to subsequent habitual use (Schneider, Coutts & Gruman, 2013). In addition, an association has been found in adolescent friendship. This association is adolescent smokers tend to befriend other smokers and non smokers tend to befriend non smokers (Kobus, 2003).  

The existence of this relationship needs to be interpreted with caution. Research has only demonstrated an association not causation, preventing the conclusion that peers cause smoking behavior. In addition, the studies that have been performed have been limited in scope, rely on self reports, and do not examine friendship patterns and changes over time (Kobus, 2003). Despite the multiple replications of the findings that peer influences are related to smoking behavior, the factors that influence this result have yet to be determined.

There are two theories that can provide explanations for the development of smoking behavior from peer influences. These theories help provide an understanding of the acquisition of smoking behavior and in the development of interventions. The first theory is social learning theory, which postulates that behaviors are developed though modeling from family, peers, media, and other social sources (Kobus, 2003). Adolescents spend an increasing amount of their time with peers compared to parents. The higher level of exposure results in adolescents being more likely to imitate peers who have modeled positive rewards from smoking. Adolescents will continue to imitate the behavior as long as their peers demonstrate positive rewards from participation.  

Primary socialization theory provides another explanation for how peers influence adolescents to participate in smoking behavior. Primary socialization theory proposes that norms regarding behavior are transmitted through social sources. The primary social sources are family and peers. These social sources combine with individual factors (i.e. personality) to increase the likelihood of participating in a behavior (Kobus, 2003). In terms of smoking, peers are the major source of norms regarding smoking. The norms transmitted about smoking by peers combine with the adolescent's individual factors (i.e. sensation seeking) to produce smoking behavior.

Research has demonstrated that peer influence is associated with the development of smoking behavior during adolescence. The research that has been performed in this area has only been correlational, limiting the conclusion that can be drawn from the findings. In addition, the research has been limited in uncovering the reasons for why peers influence smoking behavior. Social learning theory and primary socialization theory provide two explanations for why peers influence adolescent smoking behavior and present areas for further research and possible intervention development to prevent adolescent smoking behavior.





Kobus, K. (2003). Peers and adolescent smoking. Addiction, 98(s1),

             37-55. Retrieved from  





Ottone, V. (Photographer). (2009). Portrait#119-perine/mallory-

              friendly smoking.

              [Web Photo]. Retrieved from



Schneider, F. W., Coutts, L. M., & Gruman, J. A. (2013). Applied

              social psychology,

              understanding and addressing social and practical problems.

              (2nd ed., pp.

     165-190). Sage Publications, Inc.


The lung fight ahead: Surgeon general issues alarming new stats on

             teen smoking,

             urges bans(2012, March 09). Retrieved from news-teen- 



Additional Resources:


Mayo Clinic steps on preventing adolescent smoking:


Center of Disease Control Facts and Information about Smoking:



In Your Face: Obesity, a Growing Epidemic

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

         The U.S. has more convenient restaurant and fast food chains than ever before, along with more enticing food marketing, and a lack of motivation to get up and get moving; it is no wonder then, why we are now looking at an obesity epidemic; not only in the United States, but across the globe. With the proliferation of fast food big macs, supersized meals, soda refills, over processed foods, etc., terrible eating habits are now in your face; a difficult temptation to overturn. Our food production has stretched from the days of the cave men, to agricultural farming, and on through the industrial revolution. These new found technologies and phases in food production have contributed great things for the spread of society; making food safer, longer lasting, more available, etc. However, since the initial industrial revolution of food production came about and food technology has increased, food production has been grossly stretched. We are no longer producing food to simply survive; economic interests, and business priorities have overridden that concept. We now use this food production technology to push out as much mass produced product as we can, for capital gain; even if that means pumping our meat and dairy full of growth hormones and antibiotics, or over processing foods with refined flour and concentrated sugars. Food production is no longer contributing to society in the way in which we need it to; it is now contributing to one of the fastest growing epidemics in the nation. We have rapidly become this society of convenient over-processed food, and sedentary lifestyles.

Conditions that most would want to avoid throughout their life: Stroke, hypertension, heart disease, gout, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, sleep problems, asthma, specific types of cancer, diabetes, skin conditions, etc. However, these are conditions that the majority of men, women, and children will experience at one point in their life, thanks to obesity. Obesity, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30, now plagues more than 200 million men, 300 million women; and more than 40 million children under the age of five are considered to be overweight, (a BMI > 25). Now let this hit home a little more. In the United States alone, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), has estimated that more than 12.5 million children ages 2-19 are considered to be obese, a number that has tripled since 1980. The number for adults is much higher, at a staggering 78 million adults in the U.S. that are considered to be obese, (more than one third of the U.S. population). In a country that has reached a π x 100 million (314,159,265) population status, these numbers may not seem so staggering any longer. However, let us look at the statistics of the financial health deficiencies and health repercussions of obesity alone.

Obesity contributes to some of the leading causes of preventable death such as, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer; highly noted here, is the word preventable. "65% of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight", (World Health Organization [WHO], 2012). Medical costs associated with obesity in 2008 reached an estimated $147 billion; the costs for obese individuals are $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2010).

So, how do we tie all of this background information and statistics to Applied Social Psychology; rather, how do we apply social psychology to this rising health epidemic? For many years applied social psychologists have been studying and implementing strategies and interventions to this very specific health concern. Applied Social psychologists look at these instances of health concerns through the lens of the bio-psychosocial model; that is, they take into account that health risks such as obesity, are determined by biological, psychological, and social factors, (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). That said the growing concern of obesity from a social psychological approach, we can focus on not only genetic and psychological factors; but more so, the social and societal factors that lead one to risk for becoming obese. From an applied social psychological perspective we can look to see where the behaviors of obesity seem to stem from; do these behaviors stem from mental stress/depression/anxiety, from societal or media stimulation, genetic factors, lack of motivation, etc. To do so, we can take a look at individual's obesity through various models (see below Theory of Planned Behavior Model and Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model):


TPB Model.png

TSC Model.png


         We can look at the two above models from an individual's perspective on their own obesity and their own eating and exercise habits. Through the Theory of Planned behavior model we look at influences of the behavioral intentions of one to either increase physical activity or to eat healthier. This will help provide information of the driving force behind change, the support system, the attitude toward the behavior, subjective norms regarding the behavior, and perceived behavioral control, (Schneider et. al., 2012). Gathering this information, we can make a greater prediction of behavior change, and help an individual through their change of behavior. Working with an individual through the Transtheoretical Stage Model, we can help assess and determine where an individual is in terms of making their weight goals a reality. This model can aide in helping the individual become cognizant of the reality of their condition and where they are in terms of actually making the changes necessary to lead a healthier lifestyle. Both of the models are very useful in helping make vast lifestyle changes such as healthy eating habits and exercise.

       While it is great to focus on individuals when it comes to the obesity epidemic we face, I believe it is even more important to focus on the larger picture. The government is making strides in education and activity programs to get young children moving and eating healthy, however, education needs to start at home. Going back to the Theory of Planned Behavior model we take a look into subjective norms. How is one to get passed the idea that obesity is okay and acceptable when this is becoming the norm.? Or when the whole family has become obese? When you look around and this is all you see, it becomes your "norm"; that is a fairly tough concept to overturn simply by implementing government programs. Change needs to happen with our food industries, media, and advertisement as well; this can no longer simply be discussed and talked about. 

        We can help in changing individual's perceptions of themselves, of others, and the behaviors motivated by those perceptions. But the fact remains that when people don't have money, they resort to buying cheap, over-processed, convenient food. These individuals don't have money for gyms, personal trainers, exercise equipment, nutritionists and dietitians. Most low income families lack the education that is needed to understand that fresh fruits and vegetables are available at lower cost than half of the processed foods they are currently purchasing, or the fact that they can walk for 30 mins. a day, as a preventative measure to developing diabetes. Now, let's not discount the middle and upper class in terms of their contribution to the obesity epidemic; a class that is often overindulgent, and in denial. Children of affluent families tend to snack and snack often with more abundant food, though this snacking is typically not on healthy foods. With mom and dad both at work, no one is home to monitor the food intake or the fact that "Timmy" has been playing video games for the past 3 hours. Now that I have dug a hole with all classes, you can see it's not one class or another; it is a societal issue across the board. Not an easy feat for any applied social psychologist to battle the big picture, but well worth the try. 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Overweight and Obesity. Retrieved from  

Image Source: TPB model. (2011). Retrieved from

Image Source: TSC model. (2011). Retrieved from

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity in the United States, 2009-2010. NCHS data brief, no 82. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012. Retrieved from

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Social psychological theory. In Applied   social psychology [2nd ed.]. California: Sage publications.

World Health Organization. (2012, May). Obesity and Overweight. Retrieved from

Greater Understanding of Smoking Cessation

| 3 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

     Ever wondered how some individuals are capable of changing their smoking habits nearly overnight with what looks to be minimal effort, while others make numerous attempts over many years to cease their addiction to nicotine?  Well, that is exactly the question I had when my grandparents, who had been smoking since they were 15 years old, decided to quit without any nicotine intervention, such as gum, patches, or therapy.  The reasoning for such an intense interested in this matter was the result of observing my mother a respiratory therapist teach "Smoke Stoppers", a free smoking cessation program.  Each week for nearly two years, I would attend these classes to help prep the classroom and then listen, as every smoker would share their story as to why they began smoking, why they wanted to quit, whether they had attempted to stop smoking before, and what they felt would be most challenging to achieve their goal of becoming nicotine free.  Through the program, people would converse about the struggles they were having that week with quitting and how it was impacting their lives.  It seemed that most people would have a relapse when they became highly stressed, as they used smoking as a coping method.  Seeing as how so many individuals were initially unsuccessful in their initial attempt to stop smoking, I was naturally inquisitive as to how my grandparents succeeded in quitting cold turkey.Cigarettes.png

     This innate curiosity concerning the difference between how easily my grandparents ceased their smoking habit and how most people struggled to curtail their addiction can be explained quite well by the theory of planned behavior.  According to this theory, "the way to change people's behavior is to alter their behavioral intentions" (Lafreniere & Cramer, 2012, p. 178).  In which behavioral intentions are themselves influenced by "attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms regarding the behavior, and perceived behavioral control" (Lafreniere & Cramer, 2012, p. 178).  Using my grandparents' case as an example, they believed that quitting smoking would lead to improved health as well as diminish the likelihood of having subsequent cancers.  In addition, they were keenly aware that their doctors, children and grandchildren all wanted them to quit smoking, which increased their motivation to comply.  Another motivating factor for my grandfather in particular was the fact that he was to undergo a laryngectomy, which was the removal of his larynx due to cancer.  Whereby additional information on a laryngectomy can be retrieved from the American Cancer Society website at  Finally, my grandparents had a steadfast certainty that they were capable of ending their smoking habit, which was directly related to their perception of self-efficacy.  As self-efficacy may be described as "the belief that one is able to control one's practice of a particular behavior (Taylor, 2012, p. 56).  Thus, the disparity I saw between the struggles of the "Smoke Stopper" class participants and my grandparents success in quitting smoking on their first attempt could be attributed to their behavioral intentions, in that people must have a positive attitude concerning the change, a favorable outlook on the subjective norms and a high level of perceived behavioral control in order end their smoking habit. 



     Had I been aware of the theory of planned behavior when I was witness to all these events, I would have attempted to use this knowledge to help my mother create innovative class exercises that addressed the three components of behavior intentions: attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.  Thereby, helping people understand where they were in relation to the theory of planned behavior and the possible steps they could have taken in order to align their beliefs, motivations, and perceptions to produce intentions leading to behavioral changes.  Hence, the theory of planned behavior provides constructive insight into understanding the processes involved with changing behavior as it offers a "fine-grained picture of people's intentions with respect to a particular health habit...[and serves as] a model the links beliefs directly to behavior" (Taylor, 2012, p. 57). 





American Cancer Society. (2011). Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer. Retrieved from


Image Source: Cigarettes. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Image Source: TPB diagram. (2006). Retrieved from


Lafreniere, K. D. & Cramer, K. M. (2012). Applying social psychology to health.  In Applied  Social Psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts (Eds.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Taylor, S. E. (2012). Health psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

When a Nursing Home Isn't a 'Home'

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

During my high school years, I worked two part-time jobs. As was popular among my peers, one of the jobs was in a nursing home. The nursing home was one of many in my area and several of my friends had relatives that lived in the community. Like most nursing homes, the residents were divided up in to groups based on their mental and physical states, as well as their ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks and chores and take care of themselves. My job was working as a server and dishwasher in an "assisted living" dining room. Assisted living meant that residents had their own rooms and some freedom, but needed help taking their medicine on time along with some other basic personal care.


I must admit that during my time working there, I dreaded going in to work because I found it depressing to see how the residents lived and the way that they were treated. Overall, the residents in the "assisted living" area had very structured schedules along with a limited amount of control over their lives. The residents had to eat dinner at the same time every day and they had only two meals to choose from. They had no control over the portions that they were served and some residents would complain about leaving the dining rooms while hungry. Moreover, it was sad to see the way some of my fellow employees and the nurses treated the residents. Special requests were frowned upon and anything out of the ordinary was viewed as an annoyance. It seemed as though the employees treated the residents like animals in a herd and just wanted to get out of work as fast as possible. According to Langer and Rodin (1976), providing nursing home residents with choices and responsibilities provides numerous benefits that can reduce physiological and psychological declines that characterize the elder years.


Very few of my co-workers actually took the time to speak to the residents and get to know them on a personal basis. This was unfortunate for several different reasons. First, if you consider the elderly people that live in nursing homes, most of their social network lies in the staff of the home. This means that the staff is responsible for the social support of the residents. Schneider, et al., refer to social support as "the resources that we get from other people" (p. 186, 2012). Included in social support is emotional support in which people need to derive a sense of love. With the staff treating the residents with such a lack of compassion it was easy deficiencies in the social support systems of the residents. Though at the time I worked at the nursing home I was unaware of this exact concept, in retrospect I can apply these to what I encountered during my experience.. I made an effort to talk with each of the residents that I was responsible for serving and eventually, the solemn faces that I had seen everyday as the residents entered the dining room began to turn into smiles.


It is important for people working in nursing homes to realize that the residents are the ones paying them for their services. This means providing them with a personal relationship where there is an open channel for communication. Just because the residents are many years older than most of the staff, this does not mean that they are in any way inferior and they should by no means be treated as such. By providing the residents with a sense of responsibility and a social support system, they will be happier, healthier, and more active members of the community.


For more information about nursing home abuse or to report instances of nursing home abuse click here



Langer, E. J., & Rodin, J. (1976). The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: A field experiment in an institutional setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(2), 191-191-198. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.34.2.191


Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, (2012). AppliedSocial Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Nom Nom, Healthy Food

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

            Who doesn't like food? We all enjoy eating - whether it is with our friends and family, at the movies, in the park, or on the go. However, eating is not always the easiest thing for all of us, and over the past few years, there has been a huge movement toward eating "right" and eating "healthy." There are so many alternatives: turkey, soy, tofu, veggie, etc. We see labels like "NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!" and "USDA ORGANIC" amongst many, many others. I don't think we even know what these mean a lot of the time.

            Applying social psychology with regard to health and nutrition means more than just eating healthy. We should also focus on area such as decreasing substances such as alcohol and drugs, exercising regularly, etc. The first stop is support - which we receive from our family, friends, and social circles. By surrounding ourselves with those who share the same values and goals, it will become easier to attain our own goals.

            While I do believe there is something for everyone, my personal story has influenced my thinking during this lesson. I grew up in a big "meat and potato" family. I loved my steak, burgers, bologna, etc. I could never imagine every giving it up! However, over the past four years, my domestic partner has encouraged me to stop eating red meat and pork. This is something that my partner does, and I at first completely laughed it off. As time went on, I began to change my eating habits slowly. Long story short, I have been red meat (and pork) free for about a year and a half now, and I can honestly say I feel healthier. I am unsure if it is because of what I cut from my diet physically, my new mental thoughts, or a combination of both. Whatever the case may be, I have felt more energetic, alert, and healthier, since I have cut these things from my diet.

            As I stated above, I think that the key here is there is something for everyone. While the media is constantly pushing low calorie and low fat and healthy foods into our eyes and our mouths, we ultimately have to decide the best path for us. Whether that is vegan, no red meat, just exercise - anything - success starts with a backbone. That backbone must come in the form of our friends and family who can support us in our decisions to enrich our own lives.

The "real" chicken nugget

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

"That's not a chicken nugget," yelled my nephew.  "Yes it is," I said.  Not to long ago while babysitting my nephew, I had made homemade chicken nuggets in the oven, using chicken breasts, eggs, and bread crumbs.  My little nephew was very unhappy by the chicken nuggets I had made him.  He explained that they didn't look like the star-shaped chicken nuggets he ate at school.   Frustrated, I told him the truth that chicken does not come in the form of stars nor any other fun shapes like the ones he gets at school or sees in the grocery store.  I didn't want to break his little heart so I offered for him to see how "real" chicken nuggets were made and persuaded him to help.  He actually really enjoyed the process.  Despite the good outcome regarding chicken nuggets, it made me think what other foods he was eating and what other misconceptions he might have when it comes to food. 


The reality was clear to me that many children's favorite foods are so far from a natural state, that they cannot recognize the difference between processed food and unprocessed foods. Children do not know how to make decisions by themselves and therefore rely on adults to teach them proper education to succeed in life.  In my opinion, this adult responsibility extends down to the everyday food choices kids make, especially in a society with high child obesity rates. 


In general, many people are aware that children are very impressionable and this is what social psychologists describe in behavior models as windows of vulnerability.  This model suggests that health beliefs and behaviors of their environment influence children's health behaviors as adults (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts 2005).  Furthermore, because children are so susceptible and vulnerable to behavior of their caregivers and elders, it is imperative that adults practice favorable habits to instill good behavior in their children. 



I know there are many circumstances that have shaped a lot of American's unhealthy eating habits; however, I think that policy makers involved with school lunches should be well aware of children's impressionability.  In this way policy makers can play a critical role in modeling healthy behavior to create and ensure a healthy future generation.


Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.A. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Biopsychosocial Model

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks
95912667034223232_1R2jORfI_b.jpgMy first job was in a gym, where I worked for three years before I moved to Pennsylvania and had to find a new job. It was a really interesting experience, because before I was hired, I had never stepped foot inside of a gym. Sure, I had been athletic my whole life, but I didn't look or think anything like these people. I noticed seriousness in them about their bodies and their health that I just did not understand. While playing sports I had always been determined to win; determined to do better than everyone else, and by default that meant I had to be healthy and exercise, but it was never a desire of mine. It was not something that I wanted to do. It had always been my coach yelling at me to condition, or my parents wondering why I had missed the catching the ball. I had teammates that depended on my performance.

The mindset of these people was different, though. I was the opener, so I had to be there at 4:30am to make sure that everything was up and running and some mornings, when I would arrive at the gym, members would already be in the parking lot waiting on me... and I wouldn't even be late! They showed up day after day, dedicated to their health and determined to reach their goals, no matter how hard it would be. I noticed that ladies from certain classes, not only worked out together, but they also hung out together, or when I would be signing new member up, I noticed that co-workers or best friends would come in together to sign up so that they would have someone there for motivation.

Seeing them always working out, and pushing themselves, (not to mention the fact that my membership was now free because of employment) I decided that I was going to join them in their quest for health. I was going to get in the gym every day and truly get healthy. I was going to change my eating habits and eat good foods rather than junk food. This, of course, did not happen; as is the case with so many other Americans. I failed time and time again trying to do it on my own, so I decided to do like them, and find a partner. Having a partner definitely made the process easier, but it still wasn't fail proof. I didn't have a desire to workout. I wanted the end result; I just wanted to skip everything in-between. When my muscles would start to feel tired, or if I wasn't feeling super energized that day, I would want to skip it. So I took things a step further and got a personal trainer. He definitely knew what he was doing, but he could tell that I was not fully in it. He knew that I had the capability physically, and that I had people to keep me motivated, both him and my friends, but he realized that I didn't have that mental toughness that I needed to pull through. He always used to tell me that working out was 80% mental toughness, and 20% physical toughness. He told me that I had all of the head knowledge I needed to get the results I wanted, I just needed to "get my head right".

After reading the chapter on applying social psychology to health, I finally understood what he was saying. He was, unintentionally referred to the biopsychosocial model. He understood that health was more than a purely physical thing, it was more than a psychological thing, and it was more than social thing. He understood that the three of them would have to work together harmoniously to get the type of results that I was looking for. Now that I have a firm grasp of the fact that I needed all three aspects to be working together simultaneously to achieve my health goals, I have found it much easier to keep up a healthy lifestyle!

The TV Diet

| 3 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

TV Diet.jpg

It is one of the biggest problems facing our country today; more and more Americans are succumbing to obesity. While there are many contributing factors, none may have a greater influence than television advertising. While those in the advertising industry will claim that commercials only have the ability to influence brand choice, researchers believe that this might not be the case. This article will examine the legitimacy behind the claim that advertisements do not negatively influence eating behaviors, and attempt to define the relationship between these two phenomena.

              The research that we will explore is based upon the current mindset of health authorities, many of whom believe that unhealthy messages that are being communicated to the public are producing negative eating behaviors that result in higher consumption of fat and sugar (Harris et al., 2009). To test the legitimacy of this belief, Harris et al. (2009) conducted two experiments to see if advertising that promoted unhealthy eating habits could elicit such behaviors. Their theory was based upon the principle of the priming effect- that mental representations of certain behaviors could serve as antecedents to the enactment of those behaviors (Harris et al., 2009). The experiments conducted by Harris et al. (2009) targeted two groups; one of these groups was composed primarily of children and the other of adults (between the ages of 18 to 24). They found consistently in each of these experiments that groups which were exposed to commercial ads that associated unhealthy eating habits with positive images were more likely to engage in those behaviors than control groups who were not exposed to such images (Harris et al., 2009). What was most convincing in their study was that these results were produced consistently across diverse populations such that individual characteristics did not alter the effects that unhealthy advertisements produced (Harris et al., 2009).

            The study just mentioned is quite alarming, and is consistent with the results of previous research exploring this phenomenon. The implications of this research are quite important, and suggest that stricter censorship of advertising needs to be enforced if we are going to be successful in the fight against obesity. While I submit that there is a certain level of personal responsibility that people need to impose on themselves, we have not let the cigarette companies get away with marketing smoking to teens, so why should we be so passive when it comes to unhealthy food? Perhaps the relationship between unhealthy foods and eating does not strike the same emotional chord with people than do cigarettes and children, but the same underlying process is in effect: greedy executives trying to attack the minds of children to create unhealthy consumers who will by their harmful products. I believe now is the time to put an end to this, and that public policy should hold corporations accountable for the images they try to broadcast.


Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior.

Harris, Jennifer L.; Bargh, John A.; Brownell, Kelly D.

Health Psychology, Vol 28(4), Jul 2009, 404-413.































Pill Nation

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks


       Jim Ramstad, a former member of congress, once said, "It is time for America to deal with our nation's number one public health problem: substance abuse and addiction.  While we must provide treatment for those in need, the best cure is prevention".  Substance abuse and addiction are unfortunately beginning to affect the lives of many American citizens regardless of age or race.  In turn, many organizations such as NIDA and SAMHSA are continually performing research studies in hopes of curtailing the increasing numbers of individuals using substances.

            Over the course of the summer, I have been actively participating in an internship at Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling Services.  Mazzitti and Sullivan provide a variety of services, however; I was mostly working with adolescents who were diagnosed with substance abuse disorders.  Throughout the duration of the internship I was able to gain firsthand experience in regards to the development of substance abuse disorders and the factors surrounding substance abuse disorders.  Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts (2012) state that, "substance abuse in adolescents seems to be influenced by both family and peers.  Because adolescents are especially vulnerable to peer pressure, many adolescents begin smoking by experimenting with their friends and then gradually becoming addicted".  I also found in my experience that one of the main factors in the development of substance abuse was family and peers.  Many of the adolescents I was working with were either in foster care or their parents were addicts. 

            The main goal of Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling Services was to eliminate or minimize the behaviors associated with substance abuse and educate the adolescents upon how to remain drug free.  Mazzitti and Sullivan focuses on all aspects of substance abuse including the environment, genetics, and the community.  Sadly, many of the adolescents within the program were very reluctant to participate in activities and educations discussing the topics of substance abuse.  I found that many of the children were unwilling to alter their habits despite the negative consequences associated with use.  However, throughout my internship I was able to view the stages of change model directly occur in many of the adolescents.


            The stages of change model consists of five different stages known as, pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance (Schneider et al. 2012).    During my internship I would say nearly 50% of the adolescents were within the pre-contemplation and contemplation stage.  The individuals were either completely unwilling to alter their habits or considering doing so, yet not changing the habits.  Overall, the most rewarding experience was viewing one of the adolescents successfully fulfill the action stage and modify their behavior.  The child was attending counseling for heroin addiction and within a few months was able to completely rid the addiction.  However, I am unsure if the young girl was able to enter the maintenance stage because my internship ended.

            Overall, Mazzitti and Sullivan taught me the crucial steps in treating an addiction as well as the reasons that many individuals develop addictions.  I was able to participate in counseling sessions targeted to alter the adolescent's behavioral intentions (Schneider et al. 2012), as well as observe how the individuals progressed through the stages of counseling and addiction.  I believe the public needs to become more aware of the severity and seriousness of substance abuse and addiction.  Addiction is a social issue that needs to be addressed and understood by all of society.



Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, (2012). Applied Social Psychology Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, 2nd  edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.,r:1,s:0,i:144

What is the "ideal" body?

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks


I believe that the media's portrayal of thin women has definitely had an impact on the increased incidence of anorexia. According to a study by Nicole Hawkins (2004), she and her colleagues found a causal link between exposure to thin-ideal women in media, and the study participants' own body dissatisfaction. Preoccupation with thinness and body dissatisfaction increases the risk for an eating disorder (Kring et al., 2007, p. 280), and the media has a powerful impact on our lives - how we should dress, what we should eat, how THIN we need to be. I think the pressure to be thin for young girls and young adults is very strong.  

body image girls.jpgGrowing up, I went through phases of bulimic and anorexic behavior, although it never became a chronic habit. I felt that my body was too "fat" and I compared myself to other girls. I did an assignment for another psychology class and found that the clothing manufacturer Abercrombie and Fitch recently advertised a push-up bra bikini top for little girls.  And Jours Apres Lunes is a French lingerie line of clothes aimed at children 4-12 (Goldwert, 2011). A researcher named D. Garner (1997) has done a number of studies on women and body image over a 20 year span, and notes that preoccupation and efforts to be thin are at an all-time high.

Males have also been affected with cultural shifts of the normal or "ideal" look. Researchers have compiled the Body Mass Index (BMI) of Playgirl centerfolds from the years 1973 to 1997 and found that the BMI and muscle mass increased significantly (Kring et al., 2007, p. 281). In another study that used a computer to test participants' attitudes about muscle mass, men from three countries - US, France, and Austria - chose an ideal body weight that averaged 28 pounds more than their own weight (Pope et al., 2000). When the men were asked about the weight that women would prefer for males, they chose a weight that averaged about 30 pounds more than their own weight. However, actual women preferred a male body that didn't have any added muscle.

muscle man.jpgThis shows that men's perceptions of body image are skewed also! My husband goes to the gym four times a week and is very muscular. He is very concerned about his appearance and complains that he is "shrinking" when he hasn't been to the gym in a few days. I laugh at him and marvel how he is the same as me sometimes - not completely happy with his body. Oh well, we are works in progress!


For more information, visit these sites:

Developing a positive body image -

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) -



Kring, A. M., Davison, G. C., Neale, J. M., Johnson, S. L. (2007). Abnormal Psychology, 10th edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

CNN staff writer, (2011). Abercrombie criticized for selling push-up tops to little girls.  Retrieved March 4, 2012 from

Garner, D. M. (1997), The 1997 body image survey results. Psychology Today, 30(1), 30-44. Retrieved on July 9, 2012 from Proquest database.

Goldwert, L. (2011). French kids' underwear line markets sexy bras for 4 year-olds: Tot models wear makeup, pearls. New York Daily News. Retrieved March 4, 2012 from .

Hawkins, N., Richards, P., Granley, H., & Stein, D. M. (2004). The Impact of Exposure to the Thin-Ideal Media Image on Women. Eating Disorders, 12(1), 35-50. Retrieved on July 9, 2012 from EBSCOhost.


Pope, H. G., Jr, Gruber, A. J., Mangweth, B., Bureau, B. (2000). Body image perception among men in three countries. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 157 (8), 1297-1301. Retrieved on July 9, 2012 from Proquest database.


The Psychology of Smoking Ads

| 5 Comments | 0 TrackBacks


In this blog, I would like to look into the effectiveness of TheTruth™ ad campaigns against smoking.  "Social influence refers to the idea that interactions with other people can lead to changes in our attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior" (Schneider, Grumann, and Coutts 2012 pp. 171).  This interaction can refer to physical or face to face interactions as well as seeing something happen on a television show or commercial.  It basically encompasses anything that results in us receiving a message.  Using theories developed in social psychology, a company or campaign can actually develop ads that are more effective in getting their message across.  Many people focus on the media's negative effects on body images and promoting substance abuse.  However, there is also a great deal of positive advertising.  The media can focus on promoting health, as is the case with TheTruth™ ad campaigns. 

Schneider et al. teaches us about two different types of appeals to promote an influence; informational and fear (2012, pp. 171).  Informational appeals obviously have to contain information, but it is more than just that.  You can't bog down a commercial with paragraphs for the audience to read.  They probably won't be able to understand everything. With too much information, they may get bored and not finish.  The information has to get the attention of the audience, as well as keep it, with clear concise information that is understood easily (Schneider et al. 2012, pp. 171).  The example I have shown, as well as the rest of TheTruth™ ad campaigns show a disturbing scene (which we will get to later), with a simple tag line explaining the commercial.  The ad reads, "Ammonia is great for cleaning toilets, AND increasing the impact of nicotine in cigarettes" ("The Power of Advertising..." 2003).  This tagline is very simple to understand, there is ammonia in cigarettes.  We can easily see that the same ingredient used to clean toilets is used to increase addiction in cigarettes.  This message is clear, concise, easily understood, and grabs our attention.  This is a perfect example of an informative appeal to persuade a person to stop smoking. 

There is also another element to this ad, fear. Next we will look at the fear appeal to encourage persuasion.  "Fear appeals are based on the idea that people will be more likely to pay attention to a message, and to subsequently act to change their health behavior, if their related fears are activated" (Schneider et al. 2012, pp. 171).  Fear causes the ad to be more memorable, and scares the audience into changing their behavior.  However, we also learned that too much fear can have the opposite effect, and cause the audience to block out the commercial as well as the message (Schneider et al. 2012, pp. 171).  We can observe the moderate level of fear in this same ad.  We see a frightening message, but put against a non-threatening background.  What's so scary about some toilet paper?  Granted, it complements the message about ammonia being used in toilets, but it also makes the entire ad less threatening.  In this way, the ad provides just enough scare to make us really think about the message, but abstains from terrifying imagery to ensure that the message sticks.  Lastly, we learn that "fear messages should contain a very specific behavioral recommendation, making it totally clear what actions people should take to avoid the negative health outcomes" (Schneider et al. 2012, pp. 172).  This ad as well as all of the others, makes it very clear that smoking leads to these unwanted consequences, and stopping smoking is the only way to avoid the consequences.

Overall, I believe TheTruth™ ad campaigns are very effective in portraying their message and encouraging one to at least think about quitting smoking.  They include very important facts that are easy to understand and are small sentences to keep the audience's attention.  They are filled with scary situations, but not so traumatic as to block out the message.  Hopefully, more people will pay attention to these ads and stop smoking. 



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology (Second Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.

Image Taken From

The power of advertising: Big tobacco vs. anti-smoking campaigns. (2003, March 4). Retrieved from

The Sandwich Generation

| 4 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

A few years ago I found myself in quite a predicament. My father was having all sorts of health issues and was in and out of the hospital, but lived about three hours away. He had one episode that required emergency surgery and someone to care for him after being released from the hospital. I was more than willing to help, but I was smack dab in the middle of raising my own children, one in high school and one in middle school. As a single parent, I just couldn't pick up and leave for a week, the kids had school and other obligations. I had become a member of the sandwich generation! I didn't like being a member of this club, I spent weeks driving on almost on a daily basis the three hour trek to take care of my father's needs and come home to take care my children's needs. It wasn't long before burnout began. I was also working a full time job and pretty much at the end of my rope!

Then I discovered I wasn't alone, this problem is becoming more frequent for people my age, as our parents get older (and we waited a while to start families) my generation is experiencing the phenomena of having to care for our parents and raise our own families. One of the factors in this phenomenon can be attributed to families having fewer members to pitch in and living further away from each other. I was the closest living to my father and have three siblings that logistically lived too far away. They were in the same boat as me, lots of their own family obligations.


According to the article by Kathy Quan, 45 % of Americans between the ages of 45 and 56 have aging parents and children under 21. This problem has been forecasted to grow according to an article in the magazine the Exceptional Parent. Statistics given by AARP indicate that 14.4 million caregivers are providing care for elderly parents (Christian, M. 2004). The key to success in this ever increasing dilemma is to plan ahead.

My situation with my father caught me off guard and caused a lot of stress. According to Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) definition of stress, the relationship between me and the environment (in this case my father's health) was exceeding my resources and endangering my own health. I can remember feeling like I had a migraine for months.  

The transactional model of stress has three components, the stressor, the appraisal and the coping component and these three items result in the health outcome.  The stressor is the transaction between an individual and the environment, some events or situation may cause stress to some and not others. The appraisal component is considered the judgment or the individual response to the stressor. The important thing to remember for this portion is that each individual may perceive events stressful while others do not.  The third component is the coping mechanism which what people do in response to the stressor. Generally there are two types of coping mechanisms people engage in; problem-focused coping, where the focus is on the problem and solutions to the problem, and emotion-focused coping where an individual will focus on regulating their emotions in response to the stressor (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). 

I feel I followed the transactional model of stress, which included the stressor, appraisal and coping (Lazarus & Folkman 1984). For the coping portion I applied the problem-focused coping, which entailed directly dealing with the problem that caused the stress, in this case it wasn't just my father's health issues, it was the distance in our locations that really made the problem more stressful.  During the appraisal portion, I realized that some things I couldn't change, which was the continued health problems of my father and my obligation to provide care and support to him, so I narrowed the problem to a solution that would work.

We finally ended up moving my father closer to where I live, but it was still a very stressful time for the relocated parent and the grown child providing the care.

Another lesson learned from this experience is when I get older; I do not want to put my own children through this experience so I plan on pursuing some form of assisted living when the time comes.

Christian, M. (2004) The Sandwich Generation, The Exceptional Parent; 34, 4, ProQuest Pg. 41

Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. ( 1984) Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer.

Quan, K. (2009) The Everything Guide To Caring For Aging Parents: Reassuring Advice To Help You Support Your Loved Ones. Retrieved at

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., Coutts, L.M., 2nd edition (2012) Applied Social Psychology, Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Coping with a major life stressor...jail

| 2 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

This post is a follow-up to my blog called, "Changing a negative health habit is not easy". In that post, I wrote about a stressor in my life and now I want to discuss some coping methods I used in a particular situation. According to Taylor (2009, p. 174), coping is defined as "the thoughts and behaviors used to manage the internal and external demands of situations that are appraised as stressful". In the past, I have used mixed coping methods. In childhood and early adolescence, I think I used positive coping methods, but who can remember that far back? Although I still used them for certain situations in late teens and early adulthood, the negative coping methods superseded the positive. I began using drugs to avoid dealing with uncomfortable social situations (I thought it was to have fun), as well as to forget about school demands.


got stress pic.jpg


 That coping method was not possible during my arrest and incarceration (the first ever) a few years ago, so I had to resort to others. For example, I used a combination of avoidant and approach coping styles (Taylor, 2009, 179). I used the approach method to being in jail by becoming as informed as possible. Knowledge about the process and possibilities reduced my stress. Additionally, I sometimes used the avoidant coping mechanism by minimizing the threat of future possible stressors. I realized I had no control over the outcome and endless worrying would be pointless. Instead, I read A LOT of books and distracted myself.


In thinking about the problem vs. emotion-focused coping methods discussed in Taylor (2009, p. 181), I believe I used a combination of those as well. For instance, I applied the problem-focused coping method by attempting to communicate with the housing office and find out how my home and belongings were going to be handled, as well as arranging for payment of bills. I also was proactive in communicating with my Navy lawyer (JAG) in order to properly prepare for my court martial and obtain favorable character witnesses on my behalf.


I used the emotion-focused coping method as I calmed my nerves. I believe in God and I found much solace in praying and reading the Bible. I came to accept early on in my incarceration that God had done for me what I couldn't do for myself, which was to stop using drugs. An arrest is what was necessary for me to finally wake up to the fact that I was wasting my life and not living up to my potential. I believe that because I accepted responsibility for my actions, it made my time in the brig less stressful than it could have been.

stress day and night.jpgMy friends and family were also a source of external resources, and I relied a lot on their social support. My family came to visit and I was allowed phone calls to them. They were very positive through it all, although I was very much aware of how much of a burden this was to them - physiologically, psychologically, and financially. My friends also visited and wrote letters to keep my spirits up.


Although I had other stressors like no home, no job, and no money, I had reassurance from my family that I could stay with them until I got my life together. I think I would have been a lot more stressed if I did not have my family standing by me and giving me a place to live. I could have stayed with friends in various states, but I don't think I would have pieced my life together as quickly or easily as I have. In fact, I may have gone out and begun using drugs/alcohol again. I am very grateful that I went to jail. It has changed my life and made me a better person.


See these links for more information on stress:


From the American Psychological Association (APA):


 - Tips on Managing Stress


 - Coping with Stress and Anxiety Brochure




Taylor, S. E. (2009). Health Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.



Changing a negative health habit is not easy!

| 1 Comment | 0 TrackBacks

I have been thinking a lot about how far-reaching social psychology is. From that branch of psychology springs research in the realm of health psychology.  I recently became introspective about a health compromising behavior that I used to engage in. It was using drugs, which I began at age 14 and continued with until age 26. This behavior progressed very quickly into an addiction that affected all areas of my life. The barriers that prevented me from modifying the behavior are many. For example, in the teenage years, although I saw some negative consequences, I did not attribute them to my drug use. I found drugs at that time to be enjoyable and it was a way to fit in with certain peers. I also started getting the attention of boys, and drugs allowed me to be more sociable with them. Later, however, the drugs were used as a way to cope with the everyday stressors of life and I did not utilize any other healthy coping mechanism. According to Taylor (2009, p. 49), negative health habits are difficult to change because they may be enjoyable and the consequences are not apparently in the short-term. There were many periods in my life when drug use was obsessive and compulsive - planning, getting, and using drugs were the primary activities of my day.


The instability of this negative health habit caused me to use for a long time. I have been to rehabs, halfway houses, and a psychiatric ward due to this disease, and when I came out, the cycle of using drugs had been broken for a time. I would feel healthy and clear-headed, and would accomplish personal goals. However, since I had not internalized the fact that I cannot use drugs successfully, I would eventually start again. The progression downward would inevitably happen again and again.

insanity pic.jpg

I considered the Health Belief Model when looking at my negative health habit. The core ideas behind this model state that whether a person practices a health habit depends on three things. First, their general health beliefs; second, whether a person believes they are vulnerable to a bad health habit; finally, whether a person believes consequences are serious (Taylor, 2009, p. 56) When I was using drugs, I did not always see a personal health threat to using. Throughout my using, I lost a lot of weight, was sleep-deprived, and got Hepatitis C, but for some reason, those health consequences were not enough to stop using. I did not believe I was vulnerable to addiction because I felt for the longest time that I was able to control my using. I tried to use only on weekends, or to only spend a certain amount of money, or to use a certain amount and stop for the night. None of these methods were successful - ever. Yet, I still believed I was invulnerable and in control.


I continued using drugs after gaining knowledge in rehabs because I guess I felt like I could not envision a life without drugs. How would I have fun? Who was worth knowing if they did NOT use drugs? These were honest thoughts that went through my mind for a long time. I felt this cost exceeded the benefits of stopping my use of drugs. Of course, I did not consider the cost of using itself - spending savings and ending up in debt, Hep. C, dropping out of two colleges, losing apartment and best friend, hurting parents, etc. What about THOSE costs?


Eventually, the internal monologue that I had repeated to myself during my addiction changed. That phrase means the thoughts I was having about myself. According to Taylor (2009, p. 64), changes in a person's internal monologue are typically a goal of cognitive restructuring, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy is frequently used in applied social psychology interventions. However, I did not need formal therapy to change my ways of thinking. It took some heavy-duty consequences to open my eyes. I was arrested, served a jail term, and was kicked out of the Navy where I had honorably served for six years. That serious consequence changed my whole outlook on using drugs. I finally saw that all the costs of the past far outweighed the benefits to using. I believe that my involvement in Narcotics Anonymous works to keep me away from drugs because it employs a number of cognitive-behavioral techniques, although there is no single therapist leading the group. For instance, the concept of self-monitoring (Taylor, 2009, p. 60) is used when we work on our 12-steps. We answer 30-60 questions for each step in an NA-approved workbook. In the first step, 'admitting we were powerless over our addiction, and that our lives had become unmanageable', we delve into our past and write about our using habits, among many other topics.

support group pic.jpgAnother cognitive-behavioral method employed in NA is modeling (Taylor, 2009, p. 62). The group is formed and maintained by recovering addicts. As a newcomer, I saw addicts with experiences just like me, but they were staying clean. More than that, they were changing other negative behaviors like I had - low self-esteem, control, aggressiveness, etc. And overall, they were happy and grateful in life. How did they do it? They made the drug-free lifestyle seem attractive, and I kept coming back.


Some websites that may be of interest include:

  1. Narcotics Anonymous:
  2. Penn State University Library - and look up article:


Bandura, A. (2004, April). Health Promotion by Social Cognitive Means. Health Education and Behavior, 31 (2). Retrieved June 30, 2012, from Sage Journal Database.



Taylor, S. E. (2009). Health Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.








Start Them Young

| 5 Comments | 0 TrackBacks

The summers are hot where I live in Austin, Texas so I often take my toddler son to the nearby splash pad to cool off.  While sitting in the shade of a large live oak tree I observe other children, some of them very young, and am frequently shocked by how overweight some of the youngsters are.  These large children are often accompanied by overweight parents.  Just the other day I witnessed a woman wheeling her two year old daughter to the park in a stroller; the girl was drinking from a Sprite bottle.  Does a toddler really need to be drinking soda?