Health Psychology – Academic Essay

Assessment Task:


Essay (3000 words – 50%)


Essay title:

What is the evidence for the role of psychological stress in either the onset or the progression of any one illness? Use evidence from Health Psychology to support your answers.

Assignment Guidelines:

The question is very broad so your challenge is to decide how to focus your answer.

The key issue in this essay is ‘evidence’ …… What is the evidence for the role of psychological stress? You need to discuss and evaluate the evidence for the arguments you are putting forward.

You are required to consider one particular illness which could be anything from a viral illness such as the common cold or influenza, herpes, or a chronic condition such as coronary heart disease or asthma. These are just examples. You need to do some reading around the topic before deciding upon the type of illness to be considered.


Psychological stress can take many forms in terms of it being a major stressor, minor hassles or the transaction between stress and your appraisal. This may take into account coping strategies, social support, personality factors etc. You may choose to consider a psychoneuroimmulogical perspective, particularly if focusing on immune related illness.Remember that stress might have a direct effect, for example on the central nervours system and/or immune system thereby rendering people vulnerable to stress related illness or it may have an indirect effect via health risk behaviours such as smoking, lack of sleep, poor diet etc etc.

Consider the risk factors associated with the development of that particular illness.You must decide whether to consider the development / onset of an illness or the progression of an illness. For many chronic conditions there is no clear cure and people must live with those conditions for a long time. Factors such as on-going stress, social support, personality, coping strategies etc. might be relevant to the effective management of a chronic condition. There is not a SINGLE answer that is appropriate; you may choose to answer the question in a number of ways. DO NOT TRY TO INCLUDE EVERYTHING that might be relevant or important. Instead, you should select and justify the approach you have decided to take and select research evidence around this topic.

The title gives you a lot of scope for researching an area which you find interesting. One important consideration is the balance between breadth (how many different ideas/arguments you present) and depth (how much attention you pay to each idea/argument in your work). It is generally better to focus on fewer ideas/arguments in greater detail than to make brief and superficial reference to multiple ideas, without discussing or evaluating any of the evidence. You should avoid composing paragraphs containing only the conclusions from multiple studies, without any sense of what was done in key studies and the quality of this research.

In the introductory paragraph state HOW you are going to address this question, what your focus will be and why. Give an overview of how the essay will progress and state what the conclusion will be. This is important as it sets out the framework for the reader and makes it clear what conclusion you will be arguing towards. Your subsequent arguments should clearly head towards the conclusions you will be making in your final paragraph. There needs also to be a thread that runs through your essay, linking the paragraphs and the research you are evaluating. You must include a full and accurate APA reference list. You can refer to the APA website for guidance on this Alternatively, Purdue Online Writing Lab is a useful and practical resource”


To make your choice more straightforward, look for appropriate articles in Health Psychology journals (e.g., British Journal of Health Psychology, Health Psychology, European Journal of Health Psychology) Textbooks or specialist topic books are useful for getting an introduction to the area of interest and review articles, especially systematic review and meta-analysis articles, are also helpful in providing an overview of recent research findings. You can always chase up the references in a review article if you need more information about the individual studies presented in the review.

Supporting psychological research should be reported using the APA system of referencing, in the main body of the essay and in an appropriate, full and detailed reference section at the end of the essay.

Essays should be presented in Arial or Comic Sans font and 1.5 line spacing. Subsections should not be used within an academic essay.


Word count should be 3000 words + or minus 10%.


Suggested Reading:

Anisman, Hyme (2014). An introduction to Stress and Health Sage.

Marks, Murray, Evans and Estacio (2014) 3rd Edition. Health Psychology. Theory, Research and Practice. Sage

Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. & R. Glaser (1981). Stress and immune function in Humans. Elsevier.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., McGuire, L., Robles, T.F., & Glaser, R. (2002) Emotions, Morbidity and Mortality: New Perspectives from Psychneuroimmunology. Annual Review of Psychology53, 83-107.

Ogden J. (2007) 4th Edition Health Psychology a textbook. McGraw Hill.

Suzanne C. Segerstrom & Daryl B. O’Connor (2012) Stress, health and illness: Four challenges for the future, Psychology & Health, 27, 128-140, DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2012.659516

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