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)
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?