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Papers of the Week

Papers: 9 Sep 2023 - 15 Sep 2023

Commentary/Perspective, Psychology

Human Studies, Neurobiology


2023 Sep 08

Psychol Med


A revitalized biopsychosocial model: core theory, research paradigms, and clinical implications.


Bolton D


The biopsychosocial model (BPSM) was proposed by George Engel in 1977 as an improvement to the biomedical model (BMM), to take account of psychological and social as well as biological factors relevant to health and disease. Since then the BPSM has had a mixed reputation, as the overarching framework for psychiatry, perhaps for medicine generally, while also being criticized for being theoretically and empirically vacuous. Over the past few decades, substantial evidence has accumulated supporting the BPSM but its theory remains less clear. The first part of this paper reviews recent well-known, general theories in the relevant sciences that can provide a theoretical framework of the model, constituting a revitalized BPSM capable of theorizing causal interactions within and between biological, psychological, and social domains. Fundamental concepts in this new framework include causation as regulation and dysfunction as dysregulation. Associated research paradigms are outlined in Part 2. Research in psychological therapies and social epidemiology are major examples of programs that have produced results anomalous for the BMM and consistent with the BPSM. Theorized models of causal mechanisms enrich empirical data and two biopsychosocial examples are models of chronic stress and pain perception. Clinical implications are reviewed in Part 3. The BPSM accommodates psychological and social as well as biological treatment effects evident in the clinical trials literature. Personal, interpersonal, and institutional aspects of clinical care are out of the scope of the BMM, assigned to the art of healthcare rather than the science, but can be accommodated and theorized in the BPSM.