PSYC 314 (3 cr): Health Psychology


Course Description

Psychology 314 (PSYC 314) provides a general introduction to the psychology of health. Topics covered include research methods in health psychology, health behaviour, stress, coping, social support, patient-practitioner relations, pain and pain behaviour, and the role of psychological and social factors in the etiology and course of chronic and terminal illness.

Intended Audience

Psychology 314 is an upper-division undergraduate course offered for degree credit within the Faculty of Arts. Because the course focuses on the role of psychological and social factor in health, it should also be of interest to students in other disciplines such as nursing, physical rehabilitation, medicine and pre-medicine, sociology, and public health.

Learning Outcomes

Psychology 314 is designed to help you combine scientific, theoretical, and personal avenues of inquiry to understand issues and evidence about the role of psychological factors in health. After completing the course, you will should be able to:

  1. understand the difficulties inherent in conducting psychological research on health and illness;
  2. critically evaluate the merit of studies presented to you in the media of the role of psychological, social, and behavioural factors in health and illness;
  3. understand various pathways through which your cognitions and behaviours, as well as the cognitions and behaviours of those around you, influence your health and illness; and
  4. understand why we engage in problematic health behaviours such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol to excess, eating poorly, what we can do to change those behaviours, and what the health costs are if we do not change our poor health behaviours.

Course Overview

This course has been designed to give you exposure to the broad range of topics studied by health psychologists. There are eight Units in this course.

Unit 1 provides you with a basic introduction to the field of health psychology, a historical overview of the way the relationship between the mind and the body has been perceived over time since antiquity, and the relationship of health psychology to other, overlapping, disciplines. It also provides you with a basic introduction to research methods used in health psychology.

Unit 2 discusses stress, what it is, how to measure it, and its effects on the mind and the body.

Unit 3 focuses on learning about moderators of the stress experience. That is, factors such as coping and social support that can prevent or diminish the potentially negative effects of stress.

Unit 4 discusses health behaviours, both in terms of theory and in terms of health-enhancing behaviours such as exercise.

Unit 5 focuses on health-compromising behaviours, such as excessive alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking, describing theoretical models to explain these behaviours, and methods of treatment.

Unit 6 discusses factors associated with seeking treatment for illness symptoms, and factors associated with following the advice of health professionals.

Unit 7 examines pain and its management, as well as the management of chronic and terminal illness.

Unit 8 examines the role of psychological factors in chronic conditions, such as cancer, coronary heart disease, and AIDS and examines the future of health psychology.

Assignments and Grading

To receive credit for Psychology 314 you must complete all the course assignments and pass the final exam with a mark of 50% or higher.

Course Assignments

There are three written assignments for this course. A description of the applicable assignments include a variety of information, application and thought questions that require you to demonstrate mastery and understanding of course content. The assignments should be completed in order as information needed to complete them is cumulative throughout the course.

Final Examination

You must pass the final examination with a minimum grade of 50% to receive credit for this course. The final examination is based on the textbook. The final exam consists of 100 multiple choice items equally representing all chapters in the textbook.

*This course will require you to use “Proctorio”. Proctorio is an online invigilation tool that monitors your activities while writing an online exam. You will write in your own private space and will need a Windows or Mac desktop or laptop computer that has a working microphone and webcam to use Proctorio.

Grade Breakdown

The course grade will be determined as follows:

Assignment 1 10%
Assignment 2 15%
Assignment 3 25%
Midterm 25%
Final Examination 25%
Total 100%


Learning Resources

The materials for this course consist of the PSYC 314 website (which contains the course author’s commentary, reading instructions, website activities, and assignments) and a textbook.


Health Psychology, Biopsychosocial Interactions: 2nd Can. ed.
Edward P. Sarafino, Timothy W. Smith, David B. King, Anita DeLongis
Wiley, July 2020. ISBN: 9781119506884

PSYC 314 Textbook Order Form