Social and Psychological Influences on Lifestyle and Health

 

                           

                                                                               Abstract

The paper provides an evaluation of social and psychological factors which influence people’s lifestyle behaviours in relation to health risk factors in different classes, gender and age. The increasing trends of diseases, illnesses, and unhealthy conditions associated with lifestyles in the 21st century. Unhealthy lifestyle trends are undeniably becoming a serious health issue not only to the government of the United Kingdom, but a global disaster. There is therefore the need to incorporate healthy behavioural lifestyles at both individual and collective levels to reduce health risks attributed to people’s lifestyles.

 

 

                                             Social and Psychological Influences on Lifestyle and Health

Introduction

The value of good health is undeniably one of the greatest resources that each and person would not hesitate from choosing if at all such an option was available. However, the determinants of good health are apparently less understood by the majority of people, not only in the United Kingdom but also in other parts of the world as well (Conner, 2002). Alternatively, the majority of people who are well versed with healthy lifestyles do not really practice the same owing to various factors, including social and psychological hindrances. In the United Kingdom, the effects of unhealthy lifestyles are mainly underpinned by poor eating habits and people’s behavioural characters. This could have been one of the main reasons why the government of the United Kingdom sought to intervene through policy healthy living policies. Arguably, the government’s healthy living interventional measures have resulted in significant behavioural improvements, including controlled smoking practices. Healthy lifestyle policies to reduce health risks associated with the unprecedented deteriorating situations (Conner, 2002). In 2006, the British prime minister, Tony Blair was particularly concerned about the high cases of health-related illnesses and conditions caused by unhealthy lifestyles led by the majority of people. Apparently, smoking, irresponsible sexual practices, and feeding habits are the underpinning issues urgently in need of interventional measures.

Health Risks Behaviours

Basically, health behaviours are precautionary practices undertaken for the prevention, detection, or improvement of health risk factors. Braveman et al (2011) define health risk factors as “unhealthy social activities which may eventually health-related conditions and diseases” (384). Health behaviours are particularly important in controlling and monitoring medical regimes and healthy lifestyle recommendations. The practices would eventually result into improved health conditions thereby reducing diseases attributed to unhealthy lifestyles, including sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension risks among others. Ideally, practicing good eating habits is essentially recommended as one of the healthy lifestyle measures. The process of practicing a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risks of contracting diseases and/or conditions that would have otherwise been prevented is called health promotion. Health promotion involves behavioural attitudes and perceptions which basically promote healthy lifestyles in society (Ford et al, 2011). Behavioural psychologists and health experts have identified various social factors predisposing majority of people to contracting sexually transmitted diseases, health-related conditions, and diseases among others. For instance, cigarette smoking has been one of the greatest menaces putting millions of lives in jeopardy. Cigarettes have a very toxic chemical substance called nicotine which burns to form poisonous sooty material referred to as tar. Of late, many countries are grappling with the negative impacts of cigarette smoking in society, especially among the youths. Youths are believed to on active physical and emotional growth hence increased vulnerability of involving in cigarette smoking. Besides smoking, the youths generally indulge in drug and substance abuse owing to idleness, curiosity, and peer pressure emanating from age groups living in the society.

Although drug and substance abuse among the youths could inaptly be branded as the normal stages of human growth and development, they impose serious health challenges unto youths’ future lives and wellbeing. This is because the affected persons and families heavily invest their resources to treat or reduce such effects (Phelan et al, 2010). The majority of youthful generations are greatly involved into smoking, alcohol consumption, and substance and drug abuse thereby increasing the risks of contracting various diseases associated with such behavioural practices. In the United Kingdom, cigarette smoking is identified as the single greatest cause of deaths which would otherwise been prevented. Although the youths are highly involved in drugs and substance abuse, there was more death counts caused by cigarette related diseases in adults aged 35 and above compared to the youths (Conner, 2002). This could be due the cumulative effects of the poisonous substance acquired from cigarette smoking. In 2010, approximately 18% of the total adult death counts in UK were caused by cancer, circulatory, and respiratory diseases among others. These diseases are closely associated with cigarette smoking. Currently, about 22% and 20% of men and women respectively are smoke cigarette in the UK. Perhaps this was reason former prime minister of the UK, Tony Blair had proposed policy changes on cigarette smoking thereby banning smoking in public and open places.

Similarly, there is undeniably high number of people grappling with unhealthy eating in the habits in the United Kingdom. The situation has apparently “manifested into obesity cases thereby sending ripples of behavioural change in people’s lifestyles” (Thirlaway & Upton 2009, p. 29). Particularly, unhealthy eating habits underpin the need for increased sensitisation, advocacy, and rigorous dietary education in the Unit Kingdom. Although relevant measures have been taken to control the situation, there are still loops as far eating habits are concerned. People should consult with their dieticians before making decisions on the types of food they plan to consume so that unhealthy foods can be minimised. Such behavioural changes would reduce risks of becoming an obese and also minimise other dietary related disorders. On the other hand, irresponsible rampant sexual behaviours especially among the youths critically put the lives of millions of youthful generations on a balance (Bodley, 2008). The societal immoral behaviours underpin the raging effects of unprotected sexual activities among the youth and young adults. Therefore, the government of the United Kingdom needs to come up with stringent measures underpinned on improving social behaviours of people in the community.

Health Enhancing and Social Health Predicting Behaviours

Behavioural psychologists and health scientists basically define health enhancing behaviours as beneficial practices and activities reducing the risks of contracting diseases. People’s health enhancing behaviours convey productive and informative messages of managing health risk factors that might put a person’s life in danger (Thirlaway & Upton 2009). Such information sensitizes, discourages and educates people at high risk of being affected by an unprecedented behavioural activity. To that effect, several health enhancing behaviours can effectively be used in imparting the desired positive change(s) on a specified unhealthy situation jeopardizing people. Basically, the type of health enhancing behaviours conveyed depends on risk factors, level of being affected by risk factors, available informative messages, laws and policies. For instance, unhealthy eating habits require interventional behavioural changes aimed at improving the type of food consumed by the person suspected of being at high risks of contacting dietary related disorders (Conner, 2002). The government of the United Kingdom therefore needs to map areas suspected of being affected by obesity and malnutrition among other dietary conditions and disorders. After mapping, socioeconomic and knowledge based interventional mechanisms should be initiated by relevant authorities, well-wishers and nongovernmental organizations. Alternatively, health risk factors can be minimized by regular screening in the hospitals so that diseases and/or unhealthy conditions can be detected before the situation runs out of hand. This would enhance effective implementation of treatment and/or control measures. Conceptually, each and every individual therefore needs to the “custodian of his/her lifestyle behaviours so by timely seeking medical checks and immunizations” (Ford, 2011). Apparently there people who for one reason or another feel uneasy from undertaking immunization jabs. Some people argue that the immunization jabs are in contravention of their religious beliefs and doctrines. On the other hand, there is another category of people who believe in their instincts and perceptions which in return influence their behaviours. Eventually, such people develop different health belief models based on their perceptions, cost benefit analysis of a particular lifestyle and behaviours which might even lead certain barriers.

In conclusion, social and psychological factors directly or indirectly influence the person’s behavioural activities thus lifestyle. People’s lifestyles have significant impacts on the kind of life they lead which eventually determine their health and the social well being.

 

 

 

References

Bodley, T. A. T, Olowokure B, Bhaduri S, White D. J, Ward D, Ross J. D, Smith G, Duggal H. V & Goold P (2008). Research paper: Trends in sexually transmitted infections (other than HIV) in older people: analysis of data from an enhanced surveillance system. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 84, 312–317.

Braveman, P., Egerter, S., & Williams, D. R. (2011). The social determinants of health: Coming of age. Annual Rreview of Public Health, 32, 381-398.

Conner, M. (2002). Health behaviours. University of Leeds United Kingdom, 1-11.

Ford, E. S., Zhao G, Tsai J. & Li C. (2011, August 11th). Low-risk lifestyle behaviours and all-cause mortality. American Journal of Public Health, 1-32.

Phelan, J. C., Link, B. G., & Tehranifar, P. (2010). Social conditions as fundamental causes of health inequalities theory, evidence, and policy implications. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 51(1), 28-40.

Thirlaway, K. & Upton, D. (2009). The psychology of lifestyle: Promoting healthy behaviour. New York, NY: Routledge.

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