What factors should be considered when encouraging people to choose a healthy lifestyle?
Living a healthy lifestyle remains a significant challenge to a large population in the world. Lifestyle can be defined as the characteristics of people of a particular region at a specific time. Lifestyle matters with a geographical, cultural, economic, religious and political aspect. It involves people’s daily behaviors and functions regarding their jobs, activities, fun, and diets among others. This article presents that a healthy lifestyle depends on aspects of social, economic, and psychological. In this perspective, the paper suggests that participation in a healthy lifestyle involves decisions about life components such as exercises, food, and interpersonal relationships. It also includes socioeconomic status such as the level of education, family, and social networks. These elements are some of the implications for health practitioners working within the community as well as the field of health improvement. This paper will be analyzing some of the key factors that should be taken into consideration while encouraging people on choosing a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy lifestyle requires making decisions that do not put one’s life in danger. It recognizes the risks associated with each behavior, and adopt mechanism for change from unhealthy habits. The work of (Wimberley, 2009) states that one’s healthy lifestyle involves improvement of one’s health and the well-being of others. Generally, people think that they have the freedom of choice as to whether one will live a healthy lifestyle or will not. However, going by (Weaver, et al., 2014) description, it seems that such freedom is just an illusion. The work states that people’s lifestyle remains within the constraints of social and economic aspects and the way they those constraints apply to one’s life. That is, things like social ties seem to bring to people information, shelter, and other support required for the pursuance of one’s health. Social, cultural and economic resources may combine and create a gap between social classes which also create unique lifestyles (Weaver, et al., 2014). Therefore, a person’s lifestyle and health-related choices remain embedded within the society’s economic, cultural and social structures. The understanding of these factors constraints and their recognition plays a vital role while encouraging people to healthy lifestyle.
Socioeconomic status is one of the most substantial elements of a healthy lifestyle. Social, economic status is a broad concept. One of its components is the social classes that denote different groups of people living a particular lifestyle. For instance, people of different social classes may have various activities such as leisure time events. Examples of these social classes events can be watching games, drinking, smoking, or playing. These variances are not only the gross socioeconomic distinctions, but they also mean to sustain barriers and boundaries that define the social territories.
Different researchers have shown that socioeconomic status can impact various attitudes that denote particular lifestyles. According to (Maurer & Smith, 2013), the cause of racial and ethnic disparities in health status arise from social aspects such as behaviors, lifestyles, and attitudes. In (Vlismas, et al., 2009), the researchers stated that socio-economic status influences people’s way of life such as dietary habits and human health. Similarly, the study of (Gundala & Chava, 2010) correlated the people’s periodontal health and compared that against their education level, lifestyle, and socioeconomic positions. The study found that periodontitis decreased significantly with the increase of education levels and income. This study provides more evidence that on the interrelation between health and social economic status.
Level of education
The level of education is another determinant that people should consider while encouraging people on adopting a healthy lifestyle. According to (Hahn & Truman, 2015), basic education forms an integral part of health and well-being. The work states that lack of basic knowledge does contribute to lack of awareness towards one’s healthy lifestyle. Various studies have analyzed the relationship between healthy lifestyle and educational achievement. For example, (van der Heide, et al., 2013) examined whether health education can be a pathway by which people’s education level affect their health. The study measured education according to the reported level among the responses. On the other hand, the analysis measured health literacy with health activities. For instance, the respondents would be asked to interpret the dosage chart that comes with different medication packaging. Similarly, the scholars measured the respondents’ health status through three indicators. The first one was respondents’ report on their general health, their physical health, and mental health. The study found a relationship between low education and low health literacy. This relationship translated to a link between low health literacy and respondent- reported health. With this, the study established a connection between education level and healthy lifestyle.
In another study, (Shayesteh, et al., 2016) analyzed the impacts that educational interventions have on the lifestyle of people diagnosed with hypertension. This study focused on 86 patients who had hypertension. This analysis revealed that depending on the relationship between hypertension and lifestyle, implementation of educational programs within the nutrition, stress management and physical activity can lead to a significant improvement of the patients’ condition.
Within social and psychological factors, peoples’ attitudes are the most unnoticeable factors that affect healthy lifestyle. Attitudes to health status vary, based on an individual and the attitudes they have towards their future. The study of (Conversano, et al., 2010) states that positive and negative future expectations play an important part in the understanding of mental illness and physical illness. Some studies have studied this concept. For instance, the study of (Nilsson & Kristenson, 2010) explored how psychological factors relate to social, mental, and physical health quality of life. The study measured different medical outcomes and in a healthy population and compared to see whether the relation was equal between men and women. In particular, the study examined psychological factors such as self-esteem, perceived control, sense of coherence, depressed mood, and cynicism. The results showed that people’s healthy lifestyle could vary depending on the perception of an individual’s ability.
According to (Marini & Stebnicki, 2012) obesity counselors can benefit from their understanding of the psychological factors while counseling clients. The work explains that some clients can fail to understand their obesity problem and perceive it as an addictive behavior. By consideration of the psychological factors, one would be able to understand client’s stages such as pre-contemplation, contemplation, determination, action, maintenance or cases of relapse. An understanding of such stages is vital in healthy lifestyle counseling.
Cultural and Social Factors
Social and cultural factors also play a part when one deciding on whether to engage in a healthy lifestyle. There are two forms of normative influences. The first one is the perceived approval. Many people argue that individual beliefs, social norms, parent approvals can determine someone’s intention towards adopting a particular health style (Kagawa & Selby, 2010). For example, some behavioral models can dictate the extent to which someone can engage in a certain behavior. They can also prescribe activities and diets that an individual can take or avoid.
Numerous studies have examined the concept of the impact of norms and beliefs towards healthy behaviors. For example, the study of (Ball, et al., 2010) investigated the relationship between a range of physical activities, women’s eating behaviors, and clearly-defined social norms. The study concentrated on self-report data on specific physical activities like walking or cycling. It also focused on self-reported behaviors such as eating, i.e., fast food, fruits, soft drinks, etc. Social norms were also provided for analysis. The results exhibited that there is a significant relationship between social norms, physical activities and eating behaviors. Another study by (Salvy, et al., 2012) synthesized on peer and friend’s influence towards physical and eating habits. In conclusion, the study argued that youth’s involvement with their peers can be critical for the development and maintenance of positive behaviors of health trajectories.
Another form of normative influence is the perceived susceptibility. This is an individual’s perception that a particular behavior will risk them to contracting a certain disease or a disorder (Romano & Scott, 2014). Perceived susceptibility goes together with a perceived severity which is someone’s perception of the seriousness of a disorder. The idea behind the two perceptions is that they all work together to aid a person in deciding whether to indulge or refrain from particular unhealthy behavior. In most cases, these perceptions have a higher likelihood of deterring someone from engaging in an unhealthy behavior. Thus, they promote compliance the recommended health lifestyle teachings.
An analysis of perceived susceptibility and severity was conducted by (Orji, et al., 2012) while testing the health belief model. The study introduced four new variables to this model. The first one was the self-identity, the perceived benefit, consideration of the imminent consequence, and the concern for appearance being conceivable healthy behavior determinants. The study tested these variables as beliefs and their impacts on healthy eating habit. The results demonstrated that contemplation of outcomes, self-identity, anxiety for appearance, perceived benefit, perceived susceptibility, and self-efficacy are key determinants of healthy eating habit. Thus, this study showed that manipulation of such variables could help people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Family, kin and Social networks
Family as well social networks are recognized factors that play a role in shaping and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Above all, these elements are acceptable among child development experts, and they have become important focus for studying and understanding the backgrounds of unhealthy lifestyles (Brennan, et al., 2014). Also, the family is the smallest unit in any culture, and it is the first representation of someone’s lifestyle. Marriage, divorce, and single parenthood have different contributions towards one’s lifestyle. For instance, (Anderson, 2014) states that divorce has various impacts on a person’s lifestyle. Some of the effects are a loss of economic security, emotional security, change in the sexual behaviors, and physical health.
Social networks are like a web of societal associations that surround someone. There are two types of social networks. The online and the contemporary social networks made of groups, gatherings, and associations, etc. The study of (Bot , et al., 2016) explored the relationship between healthy lifestyle and network members, and the perceived level of social benefits that the network members claim to receive from the associations. The study concluded that people with wider and denser social networks had a healthier lifestyle than those who had small networks. There are different types of social support that individuals receive from social networks. Above all, these systems promote social relationships, and they are supportive of other functions that influence members’ health outcomes. On the part of the online social network. There are still many questions regarding their impact on promoting healthy lifestyle since these networks are a new phenomenon. Some of these online social networks are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn among others. There are still some studies which have tried to study this impact. For instance, the study of (Laranjo, et al., 2015) evaluated the effectiveness of online social networking sites on the change of health habits. Despite that the study suffered some problems in isolation, it still showed that online social networks promote a healthy lifestyle through behavioral change.
There are various factors that counselors and people intending to teach to society on healthy lifestyle should take into consideration. This paper focused on the significant factors. There are also others like gender, diet, alcohol, smoking but all these come as an element of the discussed factors. With an understanding of the mentioned factors, any counselor or health specialist would have an easier time in promoting a healthy lifestyle in a community.
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