Understanding the Brain

Behavioral health

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In psychology behavioral health, as a general concept, refers to the reciprocal relationship between human behavior, individually or socially, and the well-being of the body, mind, and spirit, whether the latter are considered individually or as an integrated whole. The term is more commonly used to describe a field of scientific study, academic proficiency and clinical healthcare practice.

Like similar terms such as mental health and physical health, behavioral health is a basic English term which derives its meaning from the simple association between noun and adjective. Normal variations in the definition of such terms may be expected, given common variations seen in the component words, "behavioral" and "health". When the term is employed in the scientific or clinical sense, variations in the focus, if not the meaning of the term, have been observed.

In 1978 the term behavioral medicine was formally introduced and described as

the interdisciplinary field concerned with the development and integration of behavioral and biomedical science, knowledge and techniques relevant to health and illness and the application of this knowledge and these techniques to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.[1]

In 1979 behavioral health emerged as that aspect of behavioral medicine

promoting a philosophy of health that stresses individual responsibility in the application of behavioral and biomedical science, knowledge and techniques to the maintenance of health and the prevention of illness and dysfunction by a variety of self-initiated individual or shared activities.[2]

Unlike its progenitor, behavioral medicine, the emphasis of behavioral health had been placed squarely in the arena of health maintenance and the prevention of illness.


  1. Schwartz, G.E. & Weiss, S.M. (1978). Behavioral medicine revisited: An amended definition. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 1, 249-251.
  2. Matarazzo, J.D. (1980). Behavioral health and behavioral medicine: Frontiers for a new health psychology. American Psychologist, 35, 807-817.