Psychology is the key to healthier lifestyles

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Better use of Australia’s psychologists is the key solution to the need to promote healthier lifestyles, according to Dr Bob Montgomery, Director of Communications for the Australian Psychological Society. ‘If you are going to die prematurely,’ said Dr Montgomery, it is likely to be as a result of a lifestyle-caused illness.’

“There is good international evidence that effective stress management and healthy lifestyle can reduce both the incidence and the costs associated with heart disease”, said Dr Montgomery.‘Psychological interventions with patients with cardiac disease have been shown to reduce costs to about a quarter of that for conventional treatment.’

‘Even more importantly, psychological strategies can impact significantly on risk factors such as obesity and smoking, which would even further reduce the burden on the health dollar of chronic disease.’

The National Heart Foundation of Australia published a report in 2003 that confirmed that some of the major risk factors for cardiac disease are psychological in nature and a recent study by Duke University in the United States showed that psychological interventions with patients with cardiac disease reduced costs to a quarter of that for conventional treatment, and the incidence of additional cardiac events by 40 per cent.

‘What and how much you eat and drink, whether or not you smoke or abuse other substances, how physically active you are, are all behaviours’ said Dr Montgomery, ‘ and that’s all pure psychology. If we want people to move to healthier lifestyles, to prevent illness, especially the growing number of chronic illnesses, we must address those psychological risk factors.’

‘As many of our colleagues in other health professions will tell you, it’s easy but often futile to tell people what they should do to lead a healthier lifestyle. Certainly that’s the message coming from GPs, 80% of whose consultations are now for chronic illness. In fact, many people already have a reasonable idea about what they should be doing. The big problem is helping people to build and maintain motivation to stick to a healthy lifestyle. That is a psychological problem, too,’ said Dr Montgomery.

‘No health professionals are better trained to help people do all of this than our psychologists.APS Psychologists are highly trained to provide primary interventions to protect against heart disease and other ‘lifestyle’ illnesses. There is an urgent need for proper funding of such services to increase consumer access to the right sort of prevention and treatment,“ he stated.

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Dr Montgomery is available for interview.

For more information contact:

Elaine Grant
Communications Manager
Australian Psychological Society
03 8662 3363
0412 683 068
www.psychology.org.au