Ken Wallston   PhD, MA

Professor of Psychology
Joe B. Wyatt Distinguished University Professor


Wallston is one of the developers of the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) Scales, a set of measures assessing beliefs about control over a person's health status. With colleagues in psychology and nursing, he also has developed and validated a number of other measures of individual differences -  e.g., the Perceived Health Competence Scale, the Vanderbilt Multidimensional Pain Coping Inventory, the Perceived Vulnerability Scale, and the Brief Resilient Coping Scale. His latest instruments include the Cognitive Adaptability Index and the Perceived Medical Condition Self-Management Scales. 

In the early 1980s, Wallston began studying adjustment to rheumatoid arthritis. Wallston's current research revolve around examining the psychological, behavioral, and physiological effects of having individuals disclose their thoughts and feelings in writing about particularly stressful or traumatic events that they have experienced. Subject populations include patients with HIV/AIDS or diabetes and cigarette smokers. 

He also is involved as a co-investigator in two other diabetes studies, one examining diabetes numeracy, another looking at ways of using the Internet to educate adolescents with type 1 diabetes. In addition, he is investigating the effects of public service messages on individuals' attitudes toward air pollution and their driving behaviors.


  • PhD, University of Connecticut
  • MA, University of Connecticut
  • AB, Cornell University (Psychology)

Current Research/Scholarly Interests

  • Psychometric measurement
  • Perceived control of health; health locus of control; perceived competence
  • Adaptation to chronic illness
  • Self-management of chronic medical conditions
  • Health literacy and numeracy; public health literacy
  • Health effects of expressive writing


Operating Room Workload and Quality of Care. Funded by the Veterans' Administration, IAF 06-085. (Role: Co-PI with M. Weinger, PI); 2008-2010

Brief Assessment of Health Literacy and Association with Cardiovascular Outcomes. Funded by the National Health, Lung, and Blood Institute/NIH, R21HL096581-01R1. (Role: Co-PI with S. Kripalani, PI) 2010-2012

Public-Private Partnership Addressing Literacy-Numeracy to Improve Diabetes Care. Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive Diseases, and Kindey/NIH, 1R18DK083264-01A2. (Role: Co-PI with R. Rothman, PI) 2010-2015

Expressive Writing: Complementary Treatment for Diabetes. Funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine/NIH, R01 AT002477-01. (Role: PI of Nashville Site with J. Smyth, Syracuse University, Overall PI) 2004-2009

Representative Publications


Coty, Mary-Beth & Wallston, K.A. (2010). Problematic social support, family functioning, and subjective well-being in women with rheumatoid arthritis. Women and Health. 50, 53-70.

Mulvaney, S. A., Rothman, R.L., Wallston, K.A., Lyberger, C., & Dietrich, M. S. (2010). An Internet-based program to improve self-management in adolescents with Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33, 602-604.

Christensen, A.J., Howren, M.B., Hillis, S.L., Kaboli, P., Carter, B.L., Cvengros, J.A., Wallston, K.A., & Rosenthal, G.E. (2010). Patient and physician beliefs about control over health: Association of symmetrical beliefs with medication regimen adherence. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 25, 397-402.

Osborn, C.Y., Cavanaugh, K., Wallston, K.A., & Rothman, R.L. (2010). Self-efficacy links health literacy and numeracy to glycemic control. Journal of Health Communications, 15(2), 146-58.

Wallston, K.A., Osborn, C.Y., Wagner, L.J., Hilker, K.A. (2010). The Perceived Medical Condition Self-Management Scale applied to persons with HIV/AIDS. Journal of Health Psychology. Advance online publication.

Cavanaugh, K., Wingard, R., Hakim, R., Eden, S.K., Shintani, A., Wallston, K., Huizinga, M.M., Elasy, T., & Rothman, R. (2010). Health literacy & mortality in incident dialysis patients. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Advance online publication.

Sinclair, V. G., & Wallston, K.A. (2010). Psychological vulnerability predicts increased depressive symptoms in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Nursing Research, 59, 140-146.

Mukolo, A., Heflinger, C. A., & Wallston, K.A. (2010). The stigma of childhood mental disorders: A conceptual framework.JAACAP, 49, 92-103.

Fair, A., Wujcik, D., Lin, J-M. S., Zheng, W., Egan, K. M., Grau, A. M., Champion, V. L., & Wallston, K.A. (2010). Psychosocial determinants of mammography follow-up after receipt of abnormal mammography results in medically underserved women. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 21(1), 71-94.

Cherrington, A., Wallston, K.A., & Rothman, R. L. (2010). Exploring the relationship between diabetes self-efficacy, depressive symptoms, and glycemic control among men and women with type 2 diabetes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 81-89.

Smith, K., Coston, M., Glock, K., Elasy, T., Wallston, K., Ikizler, T. A., & Cavanaugh, K. L. (2010). Patient perspectives on fluid management in chronic hemodialysis. Journal of Renal Nutrition. 20, 334-341.

Vollman, M. W., LaMontagne, L.L., & Wallston, K.A. (2009). Existential well-being predicts perceived control in adults with heart failure. Applied Nursing Research, 22,198-203.

Cavanaugh, K., Wallston, K., Gebretsadik, T., Shintani, A., Davis, D., Gregory, R., et al. (2009). Addressing literacy and numeracy to improve diabetes care: Two randomized controlled trials. Diabetes Care. 32, 2149-2155.

Carrico, A. R., Padgett, P., Vandenberg, M. P., Gilligan, J., & Wallston, K.A. (2009). Costly myths: An analysis of idling beliefs and behavior in personal motor vehicles. Energy Policy, 37, 2881-2888.

Munson, G. W, Wallston, K.A., Dittus, R. ,Speroff, T., & Roumie, C. L (2009). Activation and perceived expectancies: Correlations with health outcomes among veterans with inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24, 809-815.

Kumar, D., Schlundt, D. G., & Wallston, K.A. (2009). Patient-physician race concordance and its relationship to perceived health outcomes. Ethnicity and Disease, 19, 345-351.

Osborn C. Y., Cavanaugh, K., Wallston, K.A., White, R. O., & Rothman, R. L. (2009). Diabetes numeracy mediates the association between African American race and poor glycemic control. Diabetes Care, 32, 1614-1619.

Freedman D. A., Bess K. D., Tucker H. A., Boyd D. L., Tuchman, A. M., & Wallston, K.A. (2009). Public health literacy defined. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36, 446-451.

Wolff, K. A. et al. (2009).The Diabetes Literacy and Numeracy Education Toolkit (DNLET): Materials to facilitate diabetes education and management in patients with low literacy and numeracy skills. The Diabetes Educator, 35, 238-241.

O'Hea, E. L., Moon, S., Grothe, K., Boudreaux, E. D., Bodenlos, J., Wallston, K., & Brantley, P. J. (2009). The interaction of locus of control, self-efficacy, and outcome expectancy in predicting HbA1c in medically underserved individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 32, 106-117.

Coty, M-B., & Wallston, K.A. (2008). Roles and well-being among healthy women and women with rheumatoid arthritis.Journal of Advanced Nursing, 63, 189-198.

Wagner, L. J., Hilker, K. A., Hepworth, J. T., & Wallston, K.A. (2008). Cognitive adaptability as a moderator of expressive writing effects in an HIV sample. AIDS & Behavior. (ePub in advance of print; 7/8/08).

Cavanaugh, K., Huizinga, M. M., Wallston, K.A., Gebretsadik, T., Shintani, A., Davis, D. et al. (2008). Association of numeracy and diabetes control. Annals of Internal Medicine, 148, 737-746.

Huizinga, M. M., Elasy, T. A., Wallston, K.A., Cavanaugh, K., Davis, D., Gregory, R. P., et al. (2008). Development and validation of the Diabetes Numeracy Test (DNT). BMC Health Services Research, 8, 96.

Franklin, M. D., Schlundt, D. G., & Wallston, K.A. (2008). Development and validation of a religious health fatalism measure for the African American faith community. Journal of Health Psychology, 13, 323-335.

Wallston, K.A., Rothman, R. L., & Cherrington, A. (2007). Psychometric properties of the Perceived Diabetes Self-Management Scale (PDSMS). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 30. 395-401.

Wallston, K.A., (2007). Patient healthcare behaviours related to medication use/adherence. In N. MacKinnon (Ed.). Safe and Effective. Canadian Pharmacists Association. 269-288.

Wallston, K.A. (2007). Perceived control. In S. Ayers, A. Baum, C. McManus, S. Newman, J. Weinman, K. Wallston and R. West (Eds). Cambridge Handbook of Psychology, Health and Medicine, Second Edition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 148-150.

Goggin, K., Malcarne, V. L., Murray, T. S., Metcalfe, K. A., & Wallston, K.A. (2007). Do religious and control cognitions predict risky behavior? I. Development and validation of the Sexual Risk Behavior-related God Locus of Control Scale for Adolescents (SexGLOC-A). Cognitive Therapy and Research, 31, 123-139.

Roumie, C. L., Elasy, T. A., Wallston, K.A., Pratt, S., Greevy, R. A., Liu, X., et al. (2007). Clinical intertia: A common barrier to changing provider prescribing behavior. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, 33, 277-285.

Roumie, C. L., Elasy, T. A., Griffin, M. R., Liu, X., Stone, W. J., Wallston, K.A., et al. (2006). Improving blood pressure control through provider education, provider alerts, and patient education: A cluster randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 145, 163-175.

Masters, K. S., & Wallston, K.A. (2005). Canonical correlation reveals important relations between health locus of control, coping, affect and values. Journal of Health Psychology, 10, 719-731.

Wallston, K.A. (2005). The validity of the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scales. Journal of Health Psychology, 10, 623-631.

Wallston, K.A. (2004). Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale. In A.J. Christensen, R. Martin, and J. Smyth (Eds.)Enclyclopedia of Health Psychology. New York: Kluwer Academic/ Plenum. 171-172.

Wallston, K.A. (2004). Control and health. In Norman Anderson (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Health & Behavior, Volume One. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 217-220.

Smith, C. A., Wallston, K.A., & Dwyer, K. A. (2003). Coping and adjustment in rheumatoid arthritis. In J. Suls and K. A. Wallston (Eds.) Social psychological foundations of health and illness. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. 458-494.

Suls, J., & Wallston, K.A. (eds.) (2003). Social psychological foundations of health and illness. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.


  • The Effects of Expressive Writing in Breast Cancer Survivors with Lymphedema. Mentored Research Scholar Grant in Applied and Clinical Research from the American Cancer Society to Sheila Ridner, Ph.D., MSN. (1/1/07 - 12/31/09).
  • Mentor. Mammography Follow-up in Minority and Medically Underserved Women. Mentored Research Scholar Grant in Applied and Clinical Research from the American Cancer Society to Alicia (Malin) Fair, Ph.D. (Meharry Medical College) (1/1/07 - 12/31/11).
  • Mentor. Coping, Depression, and Heart Failure Outcomes. Mentored Research Scientist Award (Grant # K01 NR010137-01) from the National Institute of Nursing Research/NIH to Michael Vollman, Ph.D., MSN. (9/26/06 - 7/31/09).
  • Mentor. Multiple Roles, Role Stress and Strain in Adults with Recent Onset of RA. New Investigator Award from the Arthritis Foundation to Mary-Beth Coty, Ph.D., MSN. (University of Louisville). (1/1/07 - 12/31/09).

Professional Organizations

  • American Psychological Association Division 38 Health Psychology
    Treasurer, 1987-1993
    Newsletter Editor, 1994-2002
    President, 1998-99
    Division Historian, 1997-Present
  • Society of Behavioral Medicine
    Chair, Finance Committee: 1993-1996
    Local Arrangements Chair, 2000
    Member Delegate to Executive Committee, 2002-2005
    Chair, Finance Committee 2004-2008