Understanding the Relationship Between Lifestyle and Health

Several different theories exist on the topic of lifestyle. However, it is difficult to distinguish these theories because they do not all define the concept of ‘lifestyle’ in a similar way. This is a problem because a clear definition is important to be able to distinguish the different theories from one another and to develop a comprehensive explanatory model.

In the literature, the term “lifestyle” is often used to describe a person’s choice of attitudes, values and behaviours that reflect his or her personal worldview, but this usage can be misleading because it does not adequately distinguish lifestyle from other concepts such as “attitude”, “value”, and “worldview”. It also does not address the fact that people are influenced by many factors such as social norms, environment, culture, religion, media and genetics.

Theories that prefer the external interpretation of lifestyle emphasise the importance of the sociocultural and economic context in which a person lives. These theories are mainly of sociological origin and can be distinguished on the basis of their main focus: the social positioning for the models of Weber and Bourdieu, or the emphasis on practice and behaviour for the lifestyles that have been developed in consumer research.

These perspectives generally identify a number of different lifestyle factors that influence a person’s health status: how, when and where he or she eats; what he or she wears; what he or she does during leisure time; how much he or she tries to control his or her situation; how and with whom he or she spends leisure time; and how and with whom he or she associates. The behavioural lifestyles that are the most frequently identified in health psychology include non-smoking, adequate fruit and vegetable consumption, exercise and body weight control.

Research in this field usually identifies which of these healthy lifestyle factors are associated with reduced morbidity and mortality. In the United States, for example, it is known that a person’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be reduced by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, not drinking excessively and exercising regularly. However, a large number of people do not engage in these healthy lifestyle factors. This could be due to a lack of motivation, lack of sufficient knowledge or social pressure. Consequently, it is important to increase awareness about the link between lifestyle and health and to promote these healthy lifestyle factors. This can be achieved by a variety of means including public education campaigns and educational programmes. In addition, the use of media that portrays examples of healthy lifestyles is useful because it can encourage positive behavioural change. It is, therefore, important to pay attention to the content of lifestyle media in order to make the most of this potential for promoting a healthy lifestyle. This can be done by ensuring that positive news is highlighted as much as negative news. In addition, the promotion of healthy lifestyles should be integrated with other health-related interventions such as community health promotion.