Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Health behaviors are people’s actions, some purposefully deployed to promote or protect health; some thoughtlessly undertaken without concern for their potential risk to health; some consciously, even defiantly, deployed regardless of consequences to health. Risk behaviors are specific forms of behavior proven to be associated with increased susceptibility to a specific disease or ill health on the basis of epidemiological or other social data. Lifestyles are patterns of behaviors determined by the interplay between an individual’s personal characteristics, social interactions, and socioeconomic and environmental living conditions. Unhealthful diets, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and unprotected sex can lead to noncommunicable diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. These account for approximately 60 percent of the global disease burden. Disease prevention and health promotion aim to change risk behavior by using a combination of policy, organizational, and health educational approaches. Health behavior literature and practice, however, have been dominated by cognitive behavioral approaches, which start from the idea that what people know and think affects how they act. Yet, many studies fail to show a relationship among psychological concepts such as motivation, beliefs, attitudes, and actual behavior. Within health promotion, risk behavior is viewed as a mechanism for coping with adverse living conditions that can be influenced by creating supportive environments for health. The ecological perspective that underlies health promotion starts from the idea that patterns of behavior both shape and are shaped by the social environment. Action must therefore be directed at the individual as well as the social and living conditions that interact to produce and maintain these patterns of behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies online, Public Health
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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