Health psychology: developing biologically plausible models linking the social world and physical health

Annu Rev Psychol. 2009;60:501-24. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163551.


Research over the past several decades has documented psychosocial influences on the development and progression of several major medical illnesses. The field is now increasingly focused on identifying the biological and behavioral mechanisms underlying these effects. This review takes stock of the knowledge accumulated in the biological arena to date and highlights conceptual and methodological approaches that have proven especially productive. It emphasizes the value of a disease-centered approach that "reverse engineers" adverse health outcomes into their specific biological determinants and then identifies psychologically modulated neuroendocrine and immunologic dynamics that modulate those pathological processes at the cellular and molecular levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Asthma / psychology
  • Behavioral Medicine*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / psychology
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical
  • Prognosis
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology


  • Hydrocortisone