The Bio-Psycho-Social Framework



            In 1977, an American psychiatrist wanted to understand the different factors that lead to the formation of particular medical conditions. His aim was to provide top-level medical care to people who needed it. Eventually, he came upon the conclusion that “All three levels, biological, psychological, and social, must be taken into account in every health care task.” With those words, George Engel’s Biospychosocial Model was born.

For a clearer explanation, here is a short example on how the BPS Model works: Imagine that you are a football player and right before an important game, you unfortunately tripped on a rock. You fell, and now there is a huge gash on your leg. There are no substitute players and you have to play. How will this event affect how you play the football game?

Of course, the wound on your leg is an inconvenience in itself. The BPS model puts this under biological factors. How about psychological factors? Well, you would most probably be feeling anxious about whether you can play your best, and there’s a good chance that you’d also be thinking, “I hope I don’t become the reason why we lose this game.”  So now you have to suffer a bleeding wound as well as anxious thoughts in your head.

Now, as you meet up with your teammates (who are also probably nervous about the upcoming game), they see your wound and say, “Hey, you better make sure that your wound doesn’t mess this up or else.” Nobody offers to treat your wound or even ask you if you’re feeling okay. So now you feel even worse because your teammates, your friends, the people you socialize with, are putting you down. These social factors are now causing you stress as well.

You play the game and your team ends up losing. What was the real reason why you weren’t able to play your best? Was it just the wound? The BPS Model would say NO, because it was a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Basically, Engel proposed that the biological, psychological, and social aspects of our lives are interconnected and that all three of them play a part in creating our daily experiences.