Integrating Positive Psychology Into Epidemiologic Theory: Reflections on Love, Salutogenesis, and Determinants of Population Health
This chapter seeks to integrate the emerging field of positive psychology into epidemiologic theory. It demonstrates that the putative health effects of positive-psychological constructs, exemplified by altruistic and compassionate love, can be understood in terms of concepts implicit in existing theoretical perspectives on the psychosocial determinants of population health. The discussion is in four parts. First, it is shown how the effects of constructs taken from the field of positive psychology can be investigated and understood in an epidemiologic context. This discussion emphasizes key concepts in population health, including risk status, the natural history of disease, and pathogenesis. Second, a summary is provided of Antonovsky's views on salutogenesis and coherence. These are key components of any metatheoretical discussion of a potentially salutary role of positive-psychological characteristics. Third, important conceptual distinctions are made among the determinants of morbidity, disease, and health in order to clarify existing confusion regarding the impact of psychosocial variables. Finally, an overview is provided of how the putative health benefits of love might be assessed from several popular theoretical perspectives that specify how psychosocial constructs affect indicators of population health. This discussion summarizes how epidemiologists conceive of the psychosocial determinants of morbidity, disease, and health.
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