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Health Psychology: Overview

A century ago, the life expectancy was nearly half of what it is today. The leading causes of sickness were short-term, infectious diseases that spread rapidly as a result of poor hygiene, unsanitary environmental conditions, and lack of public health and medical advances. When an acute illness such as tuberculosis struck, a subset of people recovered, yet the majority of those infected did not survive. Consequently, most individuals considered the state of their health to be largely uncontrollable and environmentally determined, with little connection to psychological processes.

Today, the picture of major health problems and our understanding of health determinants are vastly different. In developed nations, average life expectancy extends into the 80s, and contamination of food and water, poor living conditions, and death from ...

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