Describe what psychologists have found out about lifestyles

Essay by Thanatos April 2004

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Lifestyles are a pattern of behaviours which are linked with jobs, culture, peers, ethnic origin and religion etc. Lifestyles affects people's attitudes and behaviours towards health, such as some people will smoke and drink despite health warnings, and others may go to see a doctor about a common cold. There are a variety of different theories, models and studies that examine this area.

The Health Belief Model devised by Rosenstock in 1966, claimed that the likelihood of a particular behaviour can be predicted by making assessments of change in health. Rosenstock argues that it depends on 1) the perceived susceptibility the person feels they are to develop the illness, 2) the perceived seriousness of the illness, 3) the perceived costs and benefits of changing their health behaviour. Also people may need cues to action to act as a trigger to initiate health behaviour. This means that, with the example of considering whether to undertake breast self examination, a woman will consider the extent to which she thinks she is at risk of developing breast cancer and the costs such as the time involved, and the fear of finding a lump versus the benefits of early treatment.

Another key element in health behaviour and lifestyles, is the idea of Unrealistic Optimism. This is the concept put forward by Weinstein (1983) of why people continue to practice unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking is because they don't recognize their own level of risk of developing such things as lung cancer, because they believe that it will never happen to them. In Weinstein's study he asked people to compare their perceived health risk with other people. He found that most people estimated their own level of risk as being lower, and explained this by saying that individuals show selective focus. They ignore own risk-increasing...