Health and Illness Perceptions

Yael Benyamini

in The Oxford Handbook of Health Psychology

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342819
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Health and Illness Perceptions

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This chapter describes the contents and structure of subjective perceptions of health and illness, which are coherent theories in which individuals’ health-related knowledge is integrated and that then serve to guide their coping with health issues as part of dynamic self-regulation processes that take place over time. These perceptions are not always medically accurate, yet they are rational and internally logical from the person’s subjective point of view. They serve as the objective reality for the individual in their role as major influences on behaviors and outcomes. The chapter discusses how such perceptions are formed on the basis of a variety of sources and their sensitivity to experiential, rather than to purely medical knowledge. Different quantitative and qualitative ways to assess health perceptions are described. Next, the processes involving these perceptions are discussed: The reasons why people form these perceptions, their associations with various physical and psychological outcomes, the mechanisms explaining these associations, and the personal and sociocultural factors affecting these perceptions. Finally, directions for future research are outlined.

Keywords: Illness perceptions; illness representations; lay beliefs of health and illness; self-regulation; illness cognitions; subjective health perceptions; disease prototypes; personal models of illness; explanatory models

Article.  26744 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Health Psychology

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