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Supporting patient autonomy is critical to improving health
Date:7/10/2012

Even as we spend more on healthcare every year, the number of people with chronic health problems continues to rise in developed countries like the United States. Most of these chronic health problems such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease can be addressed through lifestyle changes. But knowing that we should make a lifestyle change to improve our health and actually making that lifestyle change are two very different things.

In a new article published in the July 2012 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Johan Ng of the University of Birmingham and his colleagues investigate the factors that influence our motivation to engage in and adhere to behaviors that promote good health.

According to the researchers, self-determination theory, a general theory of human motivation, is especially useful for understanding why we behave the way we do, especially in the context of health. Self-determination theory holds that there are three basic psychological needs that, when met, help us to initiate and maintain health behaviors over the long-term. We have a need for autonomy, or feeling like we originate and control our own behaviors; we have a need for competence, or feeling effective; and we have a need for relatedness, feeling understood and care for by others.

"Although the framework of self-determination theory is frequently used by researchers within the health domain, to date no effort has been made to combine and compare research findings across the many sub-domains of this research," says Ng. Such a comparison could have important implications both for research and for health practitioners.

Using a technique called meta-analysis, the researchers were able to examine and analyze the entire body of research on self-determination theory in health contexts. After searching the literature, they identified 184 dif
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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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