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Am Psychol. 1990 Nov;45(11):1211-20.

Behavior as the central outcome in health care.

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  • 1Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of California, San Diego.


A predominant justification for health psychology and behavioral medicine is that behavior or environmental conditions affect a biological process. Thus, many investigators focus attention on the effects of behavior on cell pathology and blood chemistry. This article argues that behavioral outcomes are the most important consequences in studies of health care and medicine. These outcomes include longevity, health-related quality of life, and symptomatic complaints. Traditional measures in biomedical science often have limited reliability and validity. Their validity is demonstrated only through relationships with longevity, role performance, behavioral functioning, and symptomatic experience, and these correlations are often modest. A model is proposed to guide future investigations. Biological, environmental, and psychological variables are included in the model as predictors or mediators of behavioral health outcomes. Recognizing that health outcomes are behavioral directs intervention toward whatever method produces the most health benefit at the lowest cost.

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