What Is Meant By Biological Factors?

_paVan_/CC-BY 2.0

As defined by the Psychology Dictionary, a biological factor is that which affects the behavior and function of an organism and includes any condition that has a psychological effect on a living being.

Types of Biological Factors Biological factors are considered the primary determinants of the way a human behaves and may play a significant role in the development of mental illnesses. As opposed to environmental factors, which exist outside of the organism in question, biological factors are all entirely internal. In humans, a biological factor can take the form of a physical, physiological, neurological, chemical or genetic condition and impacts the way an individual thinks or acts. The term is very broad and covers any biological condition that affects an organism’s physiology.

Examples of Biological Factors A biological factor can determine how an individual behaves under different situations. Certain character traits can indicate a predisposition for issues with physical or mental health, such as aggression or impulsiveness leading to criminal tendencies. Although a person isn’t defined by biological factors, these conditions can have a major impact on his or her behavior.

There are hundreds of different biological factors influencing the way an individual behaves. Other examples include chemical conditions, such as the levels of serotonin in the brain; genetic conditions, including the passing down of personality disorders like schizophrenia; and physiological factors, such as irregularities in the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which helps living organisms adapt to different types of stress.

Link Between Biological Factors and Health Because biological factors can play such a large part in human behavior, doctors, scientists and other specialists often study them when trying to understand human health. Even with physical health issues, biological factors may be involved. Obesity, for example, may be influenced in part by how efficient an individual’s body is at converting extra dietary energy to fat. The argument of nature versus nurture often arises when considering these conditions. However, evidence shows that an organism’s ability to efficiently store fat and therefore increase the risk of obesity is an inherited factor.

Perhaps more commonly, biological factors come up in studies on mental illness. Environmental factors, such as trauma and stress, may contribute to the development of mental health issues, but biological factors often form the foundation. Neurological studies of individuals diagnosed with certain mental illnesses show a correlation between genetics and the expression of those illnesses. Brain abnormalities have been identified in people with schizotypal personality disorder while impulsive aggression as appears in borderline personality and other disorders seem to be linked to the workings of a complex neurochemical system.

By studying biological factors and finding the relationship between genetics, brain chemistry and anatomy and the development of mental illnesses, doctors and scientists are able not only to better understand the condition but to find more effective interventions. For example, doctors may be able to decrease a suicidal individual’s risk by desensitizing the serotonin receptors in the brain with medication. A clearer understanding of the link between biological factors and human health may lead to better and more successful treatment of both physical and mental health issues.