Biopsychosocial Vs Biomedical Model: Impact On Individuals, Health and Lifestyle

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When looking at one’s life, it is imperative to identify their physiological, psychological and social factors as each of these factors impact an individuals’ health and lifestyle, either positively or negatively. This idea is extracted from the biopsychosocial model that is a blueprint for research with molecular biology being its basic scientific principle. This essay will critically discuss the role of these factors in determining good health and the ability to cope with illness in relation to a given case study, with reference to the biopsychosocial model. Furthermore, the essay will include methods to improve one’s lifestyle, thus impacting a healthy outcome.

Physiological factors are defined as features that are connected to one’s physical body that affects thinking. It includes changes to the brain’s structure due to injuries, prolonged periods of inactivity, or physical stress. Psychological factors refer to aspects that affect one’s mental state. And, social factors refers to variables that affect the individual’s way of thinking and acting and are influenced by culture, environment, community, family, and society. Each of these aspects, according to the biopsychosocial model, affect an individual’s quality of life and influences the understanding of health.

In 1977, Engel developed the biopsychosocial model as a result from the dissatisfaction with the biomedical model. In his model, Engel stated that social factors, biological aspects and psychological elements play a role in illness, lifestyle or in an individual’s health and quality of life. This model further describes a way to understand how suffering, disease and illness are affected by multiple levels of organization as well as explains how an individual’s experiences shape their lifestyle and are an important contributor to accurate diagnosis, and health outcomes.

The biopsychosocial model was the first model that introduced the relationship between the body and mind. Engel stated that although the body and mind are separate entities, they influence each other nonetheless. It is through this model, that society started to use a holistic approach to health when assessing individuals.

Furthermore, through this model, Engel showed that psychological factors may contribute to the consequences of illness or be a cause and progression of an illness. The main factor that influences the psychological aspects is that of stress but also includes beliefs, emotions, and attitudes.

When looking at Nadia’s lifestyle, it is clear to see that her life experiences have affected her overall well-being. Her full-time job has caused a rift in her marriage and in her family life. She is unable to be the mother and wife she desires to be as her job is very time consuming and has taken preference over everything else as she is the sole provider to her family. Nadia has difficulty balancing family life and work life, she constantly has to discipline her sons, look after her diabetic daughter and care for herself. This has all impacted her health tremendously as is seen from her contracting stomach ulcers as a result of this stress. It is from here that one can see how psychological factors can impact biological factors.

Biological factors, according to the biopsychosocial model include physiological factors, medications and genetics. Both Nadia and her daughter suffer from diabetes. This could be as a result of DNA or of one’s lifestyle. Like type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is inherited, meaning a group of genes that can lead to type 2 is passed down from parents to their children. Additionally, being overweight and having an unbalanced and unhealthy diet can cause type 2 diabetes. Nadia is overweight, and rarely follows a balanced diet due to stress and time constraints. This further affects her diabetes and overall health. Hence, it can be seen how both biological factors and one’s lifestyle influences one’s health.

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Additionally, Nadia and her family are not involved in community life. As is stated, they do not have many friends, nor are close to many of their family members. This social factor further influences their lifestyle and well-being. It is referred to as the mesosystem that provides the connection between the structures of the microsystem, according to Bronfenbrenner’s model, and is important as it provides an extra support system for individuals. Social factors such as socioeconomic status and social support effect disease and are the vital causes of disease because they represent access to essential resources. The lack of these resources disturb disease outcomes via several mechanisms and subsequently maintain an association with disease even when intervention is implemented. The financial struggles together with the lack of social support that Nadia and her family experience, further disrupts their quality of life. Although Nadia sought help from the therapist, which was an advancement in her changing her lifestyle for the better, due to financial constraints, she could not continue. Moreover, when she was hospitalized for her stomach ulcers and it was recommended for her to have bed rest, this too could not be fulfilled as a result of economic pressures. It is therefore clear to see how social factors play a major role in affecting one’s lifestyle and their life in general.

According to WHO, health is defined as a positive state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, not simply the lack of disease or injury that differs over time along a continuum. In order for an individual to live a healthy lifestyle, they need to implement a balance of exercise, healthy eating, mental rest, socializations and sufficient family time. It is only through this balance that health is obtained positively and appropriately. Nadia’s state of physical, mental and social health is impacting her life negatively. Not only is she overweight, but she is under immense stress and has no social support to help her. This stress has resulted in hospitalizations and being away from work, which impacted both her financial income and her health status. For Nadia, it would be suggested that she start implementing a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle such as exercise, and creating a healthy mind-set to assist her in dealing with stress and with what life throws at her. This would include managing her diabetes properly, getting mental health care help from professionals and getting family counselling to aid in changing their lifestyle and behaviour, as a family, through community educational campaigns as these are often free of charge which would therefore lessen the burden of financial constraints on the family. What Nadia needs to realize when implementing these changes, is that the duty for change is as a result of her taking responsibility for the change, and that she is an active participator in the change. Additionally, the environment in which Nadia lives needs to be altered so that her overall health can be generally improved. This will include creating a happy environment in her house, eating healthy meals, all family members contributing to house chores and limiting the amount of money spent to only essential products.

When talking about illness, it appears to be an objective construct in comparison to health and is defined by Apple as a modification in a person’s functioning and is not always considered as having or feeling symptoms. According to Balog, value judgements and social norms have a sturdy part in defining both health and illness. Besides her obesity and anaemia, Nadia did not present with symptoms of illness, but when she was hospitalized for her stomach ulcers, it was clear that her environment was affecting her health, even without her showing symptoms. Therefore, stress, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of social engagement and an unhappy family life are all behaviours that may impact health at a later stage and thus need to be identified, and treated as soon as they are recognized. Applying this information to Nadia, it was only once her daughter was hospitalized that she decided to take charge for her lifestyle and for her family’s lifestyle to ensure a healthier way of life. By following a healthy lifestyle, both Nadia and her family will gain benefits such as reducing obesity and risk of diabetes, psychiatric disorders and cognitive dysfunction. Although this change occurred later on in her life, her recognition is the first positive step to change. Change is important for personal development, it leads to new opportunities and experiences, it ensures that bad situations will end which will be of most benefit for Nadia’s health and her family’s lifestyle and lastly, change means progress. It is through the small lifestyle changes that Nadia will implement that will lead to a better quality of life for her and for her family.

The model of change that would be suggested for Nadia and her family would be Prochaska and di Clemente, 1986, trans-theoretical model. This model is made up of five stages of change that include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, change and maintenance. As Nadia has already agreed upon making a change in her life, step 1, pre-contemplation, would not be included. It seems as though Nadia has considered the change, yet she has not identified the way it can be implemented and achieved. Therefore, she will need seek assistance in order for step 3 to be implemented and that is planning to achieve the change. Once this is accomplished, Nadia and her family will actively need to implement the change which will result in the maintenance of the change that will hopefully be carried through throughout their lives.

Another approach that would be successful for Nadia would be that of problem-focused counselling, an approach developed by Egan. This approach highlights the significance of identifying the problem the client faces and then empowering the client to use their own resources to arrive at a solution. This would be appropriate for Nadia and her family as the counsellor would help guide them in the direction of success, but will not require constant sessions, which will therefore, lessen the financial pressures of the family.

An alternative approach that could be used to assist Nadia and her family is the cognitive behavioural approach. This approach addresses the cognition of the individual as it is their thoughts that may be preventing them from working on change. Furthermore, this approach provides a structured method to achieving change. For Nadia and her family, stress, an unbalanced lifestyle, and stress at home could be preventing them from recognizing the need for change and then implementing this change. It would thus be suggested that they use a cognitive behavioural approach to assist them.

Alternatively, Nadia could implement the Health Promotion and the Knowledge-Attitude-Behaviour Continuum into her life. With this model, it is believed that once an individual is given facts through health education campaigns, they will follow what is right. Therefore, Nadia will learn about the advantages of a healthy lifestyle in comparison to the downfalls of an unhealthy lifestyle, and through these facts, she will introduce change. The second part of this model, which is motivated by health promotion, is that where people hold constructive or critical outlooks about a practice and thus alter their behaviour based on the attitude. If Nadia is introduced to a negative perspective on obesity and an unhealthy diet, it is more likely that this negative attitude will lead her to change her lifestyle.

In conclusion, it can be seen that physical, psychological and biological factors are major influences on one’s lifestyle as is proven by the biopsychosocial model. Nadia’s experience of quality of life is low as she lacks a balanced lifestyle, she suffers from diabetes and anaemia and is unable to manage her financial pressures. It is therefore suggested that Nadia seek help and start implementing change to her life and to her family’s life through starting exercise, eating healthy, seeking advice from counsellors, and attending education campaigns. It is through these small changes that she will ensure a better and healthier lifestyle for both herself and for her family.  

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