Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 229–245 | Cite as

Self-efficacy and health: Behavioral and stress-physiological mediation

  • Ann O'Leary


Perceived self-efficacy refers to people's beliefs regarding their own abilities. Such perceptions are believed to be strong determinants of behavioral and emotional processes, and as such, these self-efficacy beliefs constitute a fundamental component of social cognitive theory (SCT). Applications of self-efficacy theory to health have demonstrated its utility across a wide range of actual and potential health outcomes. Two pathways for self-efficacy influence on health are reviewed here. One involves its effect upon the adoption of behaviors that are related to health outcomes. The other concerns its role in the physiological stress response, which exerts effects on health and illness independently of the effects of health behaviors. In the first category, efficacy influences upon two representative behaviors—cigarette smoking and condom use—are reviewed. In the second, studies exploring efficacy effects on several components of the stress response, including the sympathetic adrenomedullary, hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical, endogenous opioid, and immune systems are described. Finally, methodological considerations and directions for future research are discussed.

Key words

self-efficacy social cognitive theory health smoking condom use stress psychoneuroimmunology adrenomedullary adrenocortical pain 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann O'Leary
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKilmer Campus, Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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