Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology


Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

James O. Prochaska


The utility of modifiable health behaviors for better physical health outcomes is well-established. Because mental illness is a serious public health concern worldwide, an important question pertains to whether health behaviors likewise have benefits for mental health. Although simple research methods indicate positive relations, no investigations have tested models with mediating factors to discern specific pathways between health behaviors and mental health. As such, this study aimed to do so using path analysis to examine the impact of three key health behaviors (i.e., smoking cessation, exercise, and healthy eating) on mental health. In addition, the potential roles of perceived social support, general self-efficacy and physical health within the health behaviors and mental health relationship were investigated. A population-based sample of 427 adults completed survey measures. One important finding was the mediating effect of physical health between exercise/ healthy eating, and mental health functioning. Implications are further discussed. Group comparisons indicated that : 1) Smoking doesn't appear significantly related to self-efficacy, perceived social support and mental health functioning, 2) engaging in exercise and healthy eating for at least six months is strongly linked to better general self-efficacy and mental health, 3) those who are contemplating engaging in exercise and/or healthy eating in the next six months appear to be particularly different than maintainers in terms of their mental health status, 4) perceived social support is significantly related to physical and mental health functioning, and 5) general self-efficacy is significantly linked to mental health functioning.



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