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3 - Choosing lifestyles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Antonia C. Lyons
Massey University, Auckland
Kerry Chamberlain
Massey University, Auckland
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Health is indivisible … the domain of personal health over which the individual has direct control is very small when compared to the influence of culture, economy and environment.

(Hafton Mahler, former Director General of the World Health Organisation, cited in Parish, 1995)

Learning objectives

This chapter focuses on behaviours that are part of an individual's lifestyle, such as eating, smoking, drinking, taking drugs, using condoms and so on. It reviews different approaches to attempts to influence lifestyles (through health promotion efforts) and reviews research on the contextual nature of individual behaviour. By the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • identify and describe social cognition approaches to the study of lifestyle behaviour;

  • compare and contrast individual and structural-collective perspectives on improving lifestyles and health;

  • outline and explain some of the limitations of traditional approaches to health promotion efforts;

  • describe the implications of strategies that have been employed to influence individual lifestyles;

  • explain the importance of social situation and cultural context in understanding behaviours that make up individual lifestyles.

What are lifestyles and how do they relate to health?

What kind of lifestyle do you have? Reasonably affluent, relaxed, busy, ‘on the edge’, chilled out, stressed, fun, sporty? Does your lifestyle affect your health? Will it affect your health one day in the future? Do you ever think about changing your lifestyle for health reasons? What does a ‘healthy’ lifestyle mean? Does it equate with doing nothing that is exciting or fun?

Health Psychology
A Critical Introduction
, pp. 70 - 105
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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Backett, K. C., & Davison, C. (1995). Lifecourse and lifestyle: the social and cultural location of health behaviours. Social Science and Medicine, 40, 629–38. This paper examines the concept of lifestyle and draws on data from two different qualitative studies to examine how people make sense of their health behaviours in their everyday lives. It provides a good account of why health promoters need to work with, rather than against, cultural norms and values.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Crossley, M. L. (2000). Rethinking psychological approaches to health promotion. In Rethinking health psychology (ch. 3, pp. 36–62). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. This chapter provides a solid overview of some of the problems with mainstream psychological research into health behaviours and health promotion. It places health behaviour in broader personal, moral and cultural contexts and provides excellent examples to demonstrate the points made.Google Scholar
Raeburn, J., & Rootman, I. (1998). People-centred health promotion. Chichester, UK: John Wiley. This book provides an inspiring and practical guide to health promotion. It puts people at the centre of health promotion efforts, examining their quality of life and showing how quality of life and well-being can be improved through empowering communities and self-determination.Google Scholar
Richmond, K. (1998). Health promotion dilemmas. In , J. Germov (ed.), Second opinion: an introduction to health sociology (pp. 156–73). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. This chapter provides a clear and concise overview of different approaches to health promotion and views on health behaviours, and the values and problems associated with each. Written from an Australian perspective, the examples are direct and helpful.Google Scholar
Rutter, D., & Quine, L. (2002). Changing health behaviour. Buckingham: Open University Press. This edited book provides a number of chapters outlining specific interventions that have been developed and employed based on social cognition models. A range of different behaviours are examined (e.g. safe sex, smoking, reducing fat intake, vitamin C use, speeding). The final chapter provides a clear discussion of some of the methodological and practical problems involved in devising theory-based interventions.Google Scholar

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