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


Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Health and Behavior: Research, Practice, and Policy.


Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001.
The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health.


Health-care professionals, patients, families, community leaders, and policy makers all struggle to understand interactions between health and behavior and to use that knowledge to improve the health status of individuals and populations. Health and behavior are related in myriad ways, yet those interactions are neither simple nor straight-forward. Given the wide acknowledgment that cigarette smoking is linked to a variety of deadly diseases, for example, why do people start smoking? And given equally convincing evidence connecting excess weight with cardiovascular disease and other health problems, why are so many people far above their optimal weight? Does such unhealthy behavior indicate a simple lack of willpower? How does the social environment influence these behaviors? Does stress make people sick, or does illness produce stress? This report presents current knowledge about links between health and behavior, about the influence of the social environment on these behaviors, and about interventions to improve health through modifying behavior or personal relationships. It also addresses what must still be learned to answer questions like those above.

Copyright © 2001, National Academy of Sciences.

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