It is generally accepted within healthcare that to understand mental health we must adopt the biopsychosocial model. This model assumes that an interdependent relationship exists between biological, psychological and social factors which are involved in all aspects of mental health (Toates, 2010, p. 14). To be true to the model research must be holistic and not investigate the factors in isolation.
Key terms will be defined and a review of the research in the literature will be performed to assess the extent to which it adheres to the biopsychosocial model. The conclusion will take an overview of these findings and determine that most research is not truly biopsychosocial and attempt to explain why.
Mental health can be seen as a continuum where illnesses are defined as patterns of behaviour that cause psychological suffering, distress and disability preventing adequate functioning with the potential of risk of harm to the self or others (Martins-Mourao, 2010, p. 92).
Research is defined as systematic investigation in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions (OUP, 2014). The biopsychosocial model has already been described.
Research can be quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research is objective and involves measuring the phenomena under investigation. Qualitative research is subjective, explores experiences and feelings, and involves the recording of phenomena that cannot easily be quantified (Toates, 2010, pp. 5-6). Both are empirical since they involve data collection (OU, n.d.).
Most of the research in the literature is quantitative, a significant amount of which is biomedical. A common approach is animal studies which are limited in what they can tell us about the human condition. Rat models are common in research into AD (Leys, 2010, pp. 51-55) and tend to focus on learning, memory and spatial coordination. A study by Wang and Tang (1998) in Leys (2010, p. 54) used a radial maze to assess the effect of drugs on the memory of rats that had an induced memory impairment.
Addictive behaviours are investigated in rats using a Skinner box which monitors the number of times a lever is pressed in response to the injection of an addictive drug. This is unrepresentative of most human environments (Toates, 2010, p. 25).
Not all animal studies are biomedical. Morgan et al. (2002) in Dommett (2010, p. 76) studied the effect of social status and cocaine use in monkeys. They found that higher social status monkeys were less likely to escalate their cocaine use and related it to a neurophysiological cause. As an observational study it’s not clear whether social status bought about the brain changes or vice versa.
Human research is more relevant to the study of human mental health and many studies examine structure and activity of the brain. Stanley and Mann (1983) and Yates et al. (1990) in Datta (2010, p. 61) examined the brains of suicide victims post-mortem which showed structural brain changes that they hypothesised...