Health Behaviour Change

What can we learn from those who have already made changes? 


Aim: To help counter the significant public health challenge posed by preventable illness in the UK by seeking to further understand factors encouraging the adoption of, motivation for and adherence to health behaviour change. 

Methods: Face to face interviews were conducted with 1003 people through opportunity sampling, predominantly in London. A structured interview schedule was used, providing qualitative data from which a template was developed, based on the most frequent types of response, to enable coding to provide quantitative data for principle component and multiple regression analyses. Basic demographic information was also collected.

Results87.1% of people interviewed reported trying to make a health behaviour change. Of these, 97.6% reported making changes known to be healthy (such as stopping smoking) and 2.4% chose other changes (such as detox). 68.6% seeking to make a change reported they had fully succeeded. A higher proportion of men than women reported giving up smoking (23.9% versus 12.9%) and reducing alcohol consumption (12.9% versus 4.7%). A higher proportion of women reported diet related changes (42.3% versus 29.2%). The most common reasons cited for seeking to make a change were to be healthier, fitter or feel better; to lose weight; or if they or someone close to them had experienced a health problem. The most common reasons cited for sustaining change were positive results, will power and knowing it is better for you. 

ConclusionsThe public health challenge is to encourage more people to act on what they already know is good for health. However, the health risks of alcohol may currently be underestimated. For the respondents with less intrinsic health motivation there appear to be a number of identifiable trigger points in their lives when they may be more open to advice from health professionals – although the position here may be more nuanced than previous research has indicated. The value of using language ordinary people use to describe their experiences merits further research as does the potential for gender based approaches to health behaviour change.

Baber M, Cooke A, Kusev P, Martin R, Nouri-Aria K. 2017


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