By Jane Ogden, University of Surrey, UK
Weight is a tricky problem to talk about in a consultation. Some patients may be sick of hearing the words ‘You could lose some weight’ every time they visit the clinic: regardless of whether they have come in because of a sore throat, a cervical smear or a potential heart problem. They may have experienced a lifetime of feeling stigmatised by the medical profession and think that all anyone ever sees is their body size. While this is so for some individuals, others may have never considered their weight as an issue, and could be insulted or surprised if it is raised. Some people may simply not want to hear the message and block out whatever is said, thinking for example ‘what do you know – you’re thin / fat / too young / too old’ or ‘science is always wrong.’ Raising the issue of weight therefore requires careful management of ‘when,’ ‘how’ and ‘what’ is said to an overweight person.
By Ralf Schwarzer, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany and SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Poland
Changing behavior may often be desirable but difficult to do. For example, quitting smoking, eating healthily and sticking to a physical exercise regimen all require motivation, effort, and persistence. While many psychological factors play a role in behavior change, self-efficacy is one of the most important.
By Irina Todorova, Health Psychology Research Center in Sofia, Bulgaria
Taking care of aging loved ones, who are perhaps in frail health, can be a complicated and confusing experience that is both gratifying and frustrating. Medical science is helping people live longer, healthier lives, and in some cases can slow down the cognitive decline that frequently come with age. The way that families care for older members, as well as the meaning of aging, dementia and caregiving varies across cultural contexts. Most people are aging at home as members of their communities, which has psychosocial benefits for the older person as well as for the different generations of family members. At the same time, caring for people with declining health is accompanied with physical effort, psychological strain, grief related to ongoing loss and possibly financial difficulties for the caregiver. (more…)
By Keegan Knittle, University of Helsinki, Finland
Here’s a familiar story from primary care: an individual who would clearly benefit from more physical activity comes into the clinic. We discuss their physical (in)activity, and in the end, the person says they just aren’t motivated to change. What’s a clinician supposed to do? How can we motivate this person to at least consider changing their behavior for the better? Or better yet, how can we help them to form good intentions for being active?
By Alexandra Michel, Federal Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, Germany and Annekatrin Hoppe, Humboldt Universität, Germany
Employees spend a major part of their waking time at work. It is no surprise then that reducing demands and increasing resources (e.g., autonomy, social support, self-efficacy) at work are important in promoting employees’ work-life balance, well-being and health. Over the last years, research has examined not only ways to repair the negative consequences of work stress, but also ways to promote resources to improve employees’ well-being at work. Especially, introducing positive psychology interventions to the workplace is a new avenue in the occupational health psychology field. Positive psychology interventions focus on building resources and preventing resource loss, and include activities that aim to cultivate positive feelings, behaviors and cognitions. In this blog post, we highlight three approaches that can help employees to build their resources and foster well-being at work.
By Anne Marie Plass, University Medical Center of Göttingen, Germany
Sometime ago a dermatologist who works as a psoriasis (a chronic skin disorder) -specialist in a university hospital, complained to me about many patients who do not adhere to the therapy, even though a mutual goal has been set, and a shared decision has been made.
By Kerry Chamberlain, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
What do people do with medications once they enter the home? Surprisingly, limited research has attempted to answer that question. Yet, it is important – most medications are consumed at home under the control of the consumer. Prescription medicines are regulated, but once prescribed and collected, they are presumed to be taken as directed. People also can access and use a wide range of over-the-counter medications (e.g., for pain relief), alternative medications (e.g., homeopathic preparations), and other health-related preparations that are less obviously medications (e.g., dietary supplements, probiotic drinks). However, we should note that access to all forms of medication can vary considerably between countries.
By Tracy Epton, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Goal setting is a popular technique
There are many different techniques that can be used to change behaviour (93 according to a recent list!). Goal setting is a well-known technique that most people have used at some point. Goal setting is used by charities (e.g., Alcohol Concern, a UK charity, asked people to set a goal to quit drinking for the month of January), as part of commercial weight loss programmes and even in fitness apps. One recent review looked at a 384 tests of the effectiveness of goal setting across a range of different fields to see if goal setting really works, which types of goals work best and if goal setting works for everyone.
By Stan Maes & Véronique De Gucht, Leiden University, Netherlands
Over the last decades, the role of individuals within the healthcare system has evolved from ‘compliance with medical regimens’, implying obedience; to ‘self-management’, denoting responsibility for the control of one’s own health or disease. This has recently progressed further to the idea of ‘self-regulation’, a systematic process that involves setting personal health-related goals and steering behavior to achieve these goals. To illustrate the continuous self-regulation process, we have chosen the ancient image of an ‘ouroboros’ (i.e., a snake eating its own tail) to accompany this blog post.
By Stuart Biddle, University of Southern Queensland, Australia
I’m writing this blog on Valentine’s Day! The health promotion charity in Australia, Bluearth, has produced some amusing videos encouraging you to use your chair less by ‘breaking up with your chair’ (liking splitting from your partner, see videos here). So what is the issue here? Essentially, with changes in the way many of us work, we sit too much and this has been shown to be bad for our health. For example, many people will drive to work, sit at a desk most of the day, drive home, and sit in front of the TV or computer for much of the evening. The workplace, therefore, is ripe for health behaviour change. But with such a habitual behaviour like sitting, strong social norms, as well as environmental designs that encourage less movement alongside comfortable and rewarding sitting, how can we change anything?