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Issues in Health Psychology

Abstract

This document investigates how stress influences human health outcomes and explores the impact of psychosocial factors on the management of cystic fibrosis. The relationship between stress and the promotion of healthy behavior forms the primary basis for discussing how psychosocial forces influence health outcomes. The findings presented in the first section of the document show that stress influences how patients seek medical care and social support.

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Relative to this discussion, it is argued that distressed patients are often hesitant to seek timely medical care or support, thereby negatively affecting their health outcomes. Related findings also suggest that distressed patients are less likely to adhere to treatment plans compared to those who are in sound mental health. Comprehensively, the findings of the first section of the report demonstrate that stress is a significant determinant of health outcomes because it influences patients’’ attitudes towards medication and seeking medical support.

The second part of this document investigates how children and adults cope with cystic fibrosis. Its findings suggest that age affects children’s coping strategies because younger patients prefer to use problem-focused treatment plans, while older ones commonly use emotionally focused coping methods. However, it is argued that children have a better medication adherence record compared to adults because parents or guardians often supervise their treatment plans.

Comparatively, adults have to balance strict medication and administration plans with their daily routines. Consequently, they are vulnerable to miscalculations and errors in their drug intake plans. Relative to these findings, it is recommended that future research should investigate how socioeconomic factors influence patients’ coping and adherence strategies.

The Relationship between Stress and the Promotion of Healthy Behavior

Stress is a strong psychological factor that influences people’s quality of life. Indeed, as mentioned by Shields, Moons, and Slavich (2017), it is a critical part of life and one of the most important determinants of healthcare quality. When managed well, it could lead to improved productivity, but if not effectively mitigated, it could lead to the development of life-long ailments, such as coronary heart disease and obesity (Murdock, LeRoy, & Fagundes, 2017).

In worst-case scenarios, it could contribute to suicide cases in society. Overshadowed by attempts to generalize stress and human health outcomes, its relationship with health-promoting behaviors have been poorly studied. The relationship between stress and the promotion of healthy behavior forms the primary basis for discussing how psychosocial forces influence health outcomes (Papies, 2016; Arch & Carr, 2017). This paper seeks to fill this research gap by explaining the relationship between stress and the promotion of healthy behaviors. The findings show that stress influences how patients seek medical care and social support. The analysis will help to improve future health outcomes related to stress management.

Seeking Medical Care and Social Support

The effects of stress on the willingness of patients to seek medical care and social support can demonstrate its link with health-promoting behavior (Papies, 2016; Arch & Carr, 2017). Indeed, by failing to seek medical help, distressed patients could adopt self-defeating health behaviors, such as failing to seek treatment or the right diagnosis, thereby jeopardizing their health outcomes (Mayerl, Stolz, Waxenegger, & Freidl, 2017).

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Numerous researchers, including Wal, Servaes, Berry, Thewes, and Prins (2018), have demonstrated the relationship between stress and health outcomes by describing its link with trauma. For example, the researchers suggest that the fear of cancer recurrence, among cancer survivors, is a predictor of health behaviors (Wal et al., 2018). In other words, the fear of cancer recurrence could provoke stress-related illnesses among patients (Arch & Carr, 2017).

However, their willingness to seek medical services or support depends on their attitudes towards the illness and their level of distress (Papies, 2016; Arch & Carr, 2017). Relative to this assertion, Arch and Carr (2017) say that stress-related symptoms are commonly associated with a diminished willingness to seek medical care and support. Conversely, patients who exhibit low levels of stress are likely to seek such support.

Lastly, studies that have investigated the relationship between stress and the promotion of healthy behaviors have been criticized for failing to provide a reliable measure of patient health outcomes for respondents who are in distress (Noble et al., 2016; Brewer, De Frank, & Gilkey, 2016). Subsequently, Arch and Carr (2017) did a study using crowdsourcing as a sampling technique with positive results. Their findings showed that the technique was one of the most effective ways of sampling the views of people who are in distress. Conducting such assessments could help healthcare service providers to know who needs help.

Adherence to the Advice of Health Professionals

According to Wu et al. (2018), Marks, Murray, Evans, and Estacio (2015) adherence to medical advice is one of the most impactful health behaviors a patient could adopt to improve their health outcomes. Stress increases the likelihood of noncompliance by increasing the probability of the patients misunderstanding medical advice or implementing it incorrectly. Both of these outcomes negatively impact health outcomes and they are often realized when patients in distress adopt unhealthy routines that negatively influence their behaviors.

For a long time, the relationship between habits and routines, as critical conduits of promoting healthy behaviors has been unclear. However, according to Cohn et al. (2011), a routine refers to the development of organized patterns of behavior with an intended purpose. Cohn et al. (2011) suggest that there is an interrelationship between the two concepts because of their influence on how people develop health-promoting behaviors. As such, the researchers propose that the most effective changes to health behaviors can be achieved when health coaches frequently communicate with patients in a supportive environment (Cohn et al., 2011; Papies, 2016; Arch & Carr, 2017).

Summary

As highlighted in this paper, the relationship between stress and health-promoting behavior is rooted in the ability, or lack thereof, of patients to adhere to doctors’ advice and their willingness to seek medical care and support. Stated differently, stress makes it difficult for patients to seek medical care, thereby negatively influencing their knowledge of medical conditions. The relationship between stress and health-promoting behavior has also been highlighted in the post-treatment phase where patients are supposed to adhere to doctor’s advice. The findings presented in this paper show that stress could cause noncompliance and the eventual worsening of health outcomes.

Broadly, these insights show that stress creates an environment for promoting counterproductive health behaviors. Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that its relationship with human behavior is much deeper than the influence it has on the conduct of patients during the pre and post-treatment phases.

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Coping or Medical Adherence in Cystic Fibrosis Populations (Adults and Children)

Cystic fibrosis is a common health condition that affects a patient’s respiratory and digestive systems through the production of thick mucus that often clogs or obstructs respiratory tracts and pancreatic functions (Cooney, McCray, & Sinn, 2018; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2019). More commonly, cystic fibrosis is linked with impeded lung functioning (Maiuri, Raia, & Kroemer, 2017). The disease could affect both children and adults, but children are often diagnosed early (Gini et al., 2018).

Tremendous progress has been made in treating the disease within the last four decades because, in the 1950s, a child diagnosed with the disease could not live long enough to attend elementary school (Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2019). Today, such patients could live long enough to marry and have children. As such, coping with the disease and promoting medical adherence is critical to improved health (Náfrádi, Nakamoto, & Schulz, 2017). However, different factors affect how patients cope with cystic fibrosis and adhere to treatment regimens. This paper explains what factors affect patients’ coping and adherence levels to cystic fibrosis. The discussion with be two-pronged. The first part focuses on factors affecting coping strategies and the second one mentions issues that influence medication adherence.

Coping

Research on coping with cystic fibrosis is rare compared to those that have been done on other types of acute conditions affecting the human respiratory system. The reason is the few attempts made at linking the effects of the disease with a patient’s mental health and quality of life. However, recent research studies have changed this framework of analysis and are focusing on establishing the link between cystic fibrosis, a patient’s quality of life, and psychosocial functioning.

One of the first areas explored in the examination of the link relates to factors that make it easier or difficult for patients to cope with the disease. For example, the study by Borchi et al. (2018) suggests that nonadherence is a complex problem affecting cystic fibrosis populations and should be addressed by all stakeholders. Particularly, healthcare professionals, people, who operate the healthcare system, family members, and community members, are encouraged to share responsibility.

Their efforts should be directed at reducing the psychological stress of having the disease because it is one of the most impactful factors influencing how patients cope. There are many similarities between coping mechanisms adopted by children and adults respectively because both demographics are known to follow similar patterns of behavior as a normative sample (Borchi et al., 2018). Furthermore, similar to adults, children are often known to use multiple coping strategies (Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2019).

Alternatively, studies have shown that age could be a differentiating factor in understanding how they cope with the disease (Cooney et al., 2018; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2019). Broadly, these studies suggest that children use more coping strategies as they grow older. For example, younger patients use more problem-focused coping strategies compared to their older counterparts (Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2019). Comparatively, older children prefer to use emotionally focused coping strategies.

Adults who suffer from cystic fibrosis differ from children based on their psychological concerns of coping with the disease and taking medication. Therefore, the biopsychosocial impact of the disease on their lives is high. Consequently, it may be difficult to adhere to treatment plans. However, patients who experience minimal impact on their lives may have little resistance towards adhering to such plans. This analysis extends to the socioeconomic impact of the disease on the lives of many adult patients because of their jobs or positions in life.

Social prejudices are also top among the reasons for poor coping because some adults may consider a confirmed diagnosis as embarrassing. Such stigma may manifest as fear and uncertainty towards the prospects of living with the disease, thereby creating miscalculations or hopelessness in managing it. However, children are not as prone to the above-mentioned psychosocial factors affecting medical adherence to cystic fibrosis treatment as their older counterparts because parents or guardians often supervise their treatment plans. Therefore, the adherence levels among children are significantly higher than in adults.

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The literature on adult coping shows that most of them use avoidant coping strategies (Náfrádi et al., 2017; Maiuri et al., 2017). The common thinking behind the use of such a strategy is the lack of proper psychosocial adjustments to coping. To exploit some of the above-mentioned influences of patient coping strategies to improve medication adherence, Wlodarczyk (2017), suggests that it is pertinent to develop a link between optimism and hope when providing medical care to cystic fibrosis populations. This recommendation is made from findings that demonstrate the role of optimism and hope in improving health outcomes.

Adherence

Despite the effects of cystic fibrosis on patients and their families, there is poor adherence to medication. For example, recent studies authored by Hennein et al. (2018) show that different factors influence how patients adhere to medications, some of which can be changed. Furthermore, previous research studies have reported that the cost of drugs and their side effects influence how patients adhere to medications (Náfrádi et al., 2017; Maiuri et al., 2017). Others have shown that the cost of the medicine and its associated routine of administration have a similar effect on adherence (Hennein et al., 2018).

Supporting evidence suggests that the range of factors influencing adherence levels could be much broader to include the demographic characteristics of patients, their beliefs, and comorbidities. Such types of evidence have been further corroborated by lifestyle studies that have investigated the relationship between human behavioral patterns and health outcomes. For example, the study by Sousa, Gaspar, Fonseca, and Gaspar (2016) showed that several lifestyle domains were responsible for the food choices of adolescent children who developed obesity. Such studies have emphasized the importance of behavioral change in improving health outcomes.

Broadly, there is consensus that adherence is an important part of treatment for cystic fibrosis populations. Subject to this view, several factors have been highlighted as possible influencers of people’s willingness to stick to treatment plans. For example, the World Health Organization (2019) says one of them is the failure of patients to understand how to take drugs. This problem could be caused by psychological stress or poor communication between healthcare service professionals and patients. Complex medication regimens have also been cited as possible contributors to psychological stress that could potentially inhibit a patient’s discipline level when following a treatment plan (World Health Organization, 2019).

Summary

The insights highlighted in this paper suggest that the coping strategies adopted by patients suffering from cystic fibrosis are prone to several psychosocial factors that affect children and adults differently. Children’s coping strategies are mostly affected by age because younger patients often use problem-focused treatment plans to manage the condition, while older ones commonly use emotionally-focused coping methods. However, children have a better medication adherence record compared to adults because parents or guardians often supervise their treatment plans. Comparatively, adults have to balance strict medication and administration needs with their daily routines, thereby causing miscalculations and errors in drug intake. Nonetheless, future research should focus on explaining how socioeconomic factors influence patients’ coping and adherence levels.

References

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