What Shapes Health-Related Behaviors?

Most efforts to improve health-related behaviors have historically focused on health education to better inform people about the importance of making healthier decisions. More recently, however, that focus has broadened as a result of new understanding about how the conditions in which we live, learn, work and play also shape health.

While some differences in health may be attributed to the fact that people with more education have more information about healthy behaviors, data shows that more education leads to better jobs and higher incomes, which, in turn, allows people to do things like buy healthier food, join a gym or live in neighborhoods with healthier influences. This issue brief summarizes current knowledge about factors that shape health-related behaviors and provides an overview of promising approaches based on that knowledge.

This is one in a series of 12 issue briefs on the social determinants of health. The series began as a product of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America and continues as a part of the Foundation's Vulnerable Populations Portfolio.