Risk, Communication and Health Psychology

By Dianne C. Berry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Understanding and
influencing people's health
behaviours

What is health?
This chapter starts by considering what is meant by health, as well as the key factors that determine and influence it. It then reviews the main models that have been developed to account for health behaviour and discusses some of their limitations. Finally, it looks at adherence to medicine taking as an example of a health behaviour that affects the vast majority of the population at some point in their lives.According to the World Health Organization, 'health is a state of complete physical and mental well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity' (Calman 1998: 4). As Calman has noted, several issues follow from this definition. First, health is a relative rather than an absolute term, in that it can always be improved. Second, there are both positive and negative aspects to health; that is, feeling well and ill are parts of the same concept. Finally, health must be considered in a holistic way. Many factors are relevant, including physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, social and intellectual aspects. The role of many of these factors will be discussed throughout this chapter.
Determinants of health
Many factors contribute to the health of individuals and of populations. Calman (1998) identified the key determinants of health as being:
genetic factors;
environmental factors, including the quality of air, water, soil, radiation, and communicable disease;
lifestyle factors, including diet, smoking, alcohol, exercise and sexual behaviour;

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