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Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Health and Behavior: Research, Practice, and Policy. Health and Behavior: The Interplay of Biological, Behavioral, and Societal Influences. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001.

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Health and Behavior: The Interplay of Biological, Behavioral, and Societal Influences.

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1Biological, Behavioral, and Social Factors Affecting Health

In the early years of scientific medicine, most clinicians and researchers thought only in terms of single causes: specific agents that cause specific disease. For example, an infection was considered to result only from the proliferation of bacteria, while other kinds of ill health might result from viruses, toxins, accidents, or flaws in a person's genetic makeup. More recent research highlights the relationships between health and behavioral, psychological, and social variables.

Acceptance of the fact that stress is linked to cardiovascular disease or to other health problems has become commonplace. However, research also reveals many reciprocal links among the central nervous system, which recognizes and records experiences; the endocrine system, which produces hormones that govern many body functions; and the immune system, which organizes responses to infections and other challenges.

Similarly, it has long been recognized that specific behaviors are associated with increased risk of specific diseases and related conditions. For example, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, inadequate physical activity, some sexual practices, and high-fat or low-fiber diets have all been recognized as unhealthful. Less widely recognized, however, is the association between socioeconomic status and health, or the influence of social networks, current or anticipated employment status, and personal beliefs. Recent research not only documents the importance of these factors, but also describes some of the mechanisms involved,

Part One reviews some of the most important developments on these topics. Chapter 2 addresses the interactions of biobehavioral factors in health, Chapter 3 reviews behavioral risk factors, and Chapter 4 describes the role of social risk factors.

2. Biobehavioral Factors in Health and Disease

3. Behavioral Risk Factors

4. Social Risk Factors

Copyright © 2001, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK43745

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