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In this article we summarize recent investigations into the influence of illness perceptions on outcomes in patients with medical conditions.Developments in assessment include the publishing of a new brief scale to assess illness perceptions and the examination of the relationship between patient drawings of their illness and outcomes. Recent studies in primary care highlight the importance of patients' beliefs and emotional responses to their illness as being important in influencing their satisfaction with the consultation, reassurance following negative medical testing and future healthcare use. Recent research shows illness perceptions to have associations with a number of outcomes in chronic illness including self-management behaviours and quality of life. As yet, however, few interventions have been developed designed to change illness perceptions and improve illness outcomes. Emerging areas of research include the application of illness perceptions to mental illness and genetic and risk factor testing.Research on illness perceptions has confirmed that patients' beliefs are associated with important outcomes in a broadening range of illnesses and risk factor testing. New interventions based on this model have the potential to improve patient outcomes but have yet to be widely developed and applied.