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Introduction

People adopt different health behaviors depending on how, where and when they grew up. In this essay we will discuss factors that influence an individual's personal health behaviors. We will look at hypothetical health behaviors; those that promote and those that diminish health. We will wind up on health and unhealthy eating and on factors that promote healthy generating choices.

Factors that influence an individual's personal health behaviors

The health status of an individual and the subsequent health behaviors are influenced by a convergence of individual factors. The Arizona Department of Education lists; family, culture, peers, media, technology as the factors affecting health behaviors.

Family

The family through our parental education plays a big role in the development of dietary choices that we make. The children will most likely take after their parental dietary choices such that if parents have never learned to choose healthy foods, then naturally their children will take after them. Parental eating habits are handed down to their children which are then handed down to their grandchildren, this is because children admire and copy their parents. Lack of parental guidance is another factor such that today's parent has no time to make nutritious food for their kids at home.

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Another fact is that today's parent leaves their children to choose over what they want and as children, they do not know what a nutritious meal is and as a result will pick over Macdonald's over a healthy packed food. These children are likely to develop improper eating habits because they are just allowed to access food supply at will. Children are also not taught what the proper proportion is, especially in the US people tend to eat more than what they need and again children copy this improper eating habits. They need to be taught on the right portion sizes based on what their body requires (McGregor W. 2010).

Culture

Studies do suggest that different cultures have different eating habits and these habits influences a person's health. Example is the health of Mexican American, it is suggested that their health is better than expected due to their low socio-economic status as compared to that of other Americans. Strategies aimed to achieve and maintain good health vary along the cultural groups, for example the US dominant culture endorses a low fat, high fiber diet, regular exercises and earlier immunizations so as to promote and protect health. To that culture that links their beliefs to etiology, they can place their greater value on prayers and meditation. These cultures can emphasize disease prevention to be done through paying homage to ancestral spirits rather through hospitals. (McGregor W. 2010).

Our ethnicity also affects our eating habits. Some people select certain foods because they feel they have a duty to eat these kinds of foods simply because they have been eating them. It is important though for people to realize that what we take affects directly the health we experience and regardless of their heritage, nutrient packed, low-fat foods are good for all of us.

Technology

Although available and saves a lot of time, the availability of prepared, processed and microwave, bleached , sugar filled and sodium laden foods which otherwise accumulate toxics should be avoided. These kinds of foods are mainly liked because they are convenient but there is evidence that long time exposure to this kind of foods reduces human health levels.  

Too often, families settle in front of television, video games and computers surfing and do not pay attention to the manners in which they eat. Instead of structuring mealtime and enjoying the food, they hastily gobble down foods with no thought. This denies them the ability to sit down, relax and enjoy foods together.

Peer relations

In most adolescents, because the educational role of the parents decreases, young people will tend to orient themselves towards peer groups thus meaning that they will orient towards their subcultures. Some of the risk behaviors like smoking, drug use becomes part of the social interaction within these peer groups. Usually group pressure will cause their maintenance which will impair health.  

Other societal influences of eating habits are:

  • Time constraints. Time affects everybody and thus everything has to be planned. Although everybody has busy schedules, there is enough time to prepare for nutritious food if planned well. In order to contribute to good eating habits, each person needs to have a good plan for his/her time such that s/he watches less TV or surfs less on the internet.
  • Holiday celebrations. During holiday celebrations, most activities are centered on food. It has become like a norm that during such times like Christmas and thanksgiving, people tend to eat large quantities of food without caring about the nutrient or observing healthy eating habits.
  • A form of entertainment. Eating is a popular form of entertainment that almost every social event is based in part by eating. This include weddings, family re-unions, and church gatherings have a central theme; that of eating. People tend to care less on the food nutrition during these times and will eat unhealthy. (McGregor W. 2010).

Health behaviors

Health behaviors are those characteristics exhibited by individuals to protect, promote or maintain their health status reflecting a person's health beliefs. This may include proper diet, appropriate exercises or a certain lifestyle.

Example of health behaviors are:

  • Smoking- it is estimated that more than 400,000 Americans each year are killed by smoking and its effects.
  • Overworking in the office
  • Not getting enough sleep- makes any problem more worse. People need enough undisturbed sleep daily.
  • Excessive Alcohol use- may lead to healthy problems like cancer. It als damages brain and body cells.
  • Eating too quickly- not having enough time to sit down and have a proper meal. This may lead to excess gases, acid reflux and a bloated stomach.
  • Skipping breakfast- due to tight schedules in the morning. But skipping breakfast leads to the body slowing down to conserve energy and this will affect one's metabolism. Most people will compensate by over-eating during lunch time and will more likely lead to obesity.
  • Drug abuse- like medicine under or overdose and can lead to hurting the body.
  • Drinking coffee. May result to overdependence on caffeine.
  • Drinking soft drinks- these carbonated drinks erode tooth enamel and may promote kidney stones.
  • Eating too much meat.
  • Snacking enough fruits
  • Drinking enough water daily. (Saul A. 1999).

There are a host of reasons why people stick to unhealthy behaviors, like a smoker won't quit smoking or an obese person cannot shed some excess fat. Scientists have come up with reasons why humans stick to bad habits. They are; need for social acceptance- an individual will want to continue smoking or drinking simply because he wants to keep company of his peers or to be accepted as one of their own, inability to understand the nature of risk associated- if a person has no adequate knowledge of the food or drug s/he is using, s/he will continue using it despite its adverse effects.   Another factor is genetic predisposition to addiction-some people are not able to control their acts and this may be partially planted in them genetically thus hey will continue engaging in un/healthy behaviors with little control of what they engaging in. (Bryner J. 2008).

While many people want to have a healthy lifestyle, the initiation and maintenance of such kind of a behavior results from an interaction of social, psychological, environmental and biological factors. There are some reasons why people engage from in unhealthy behaviors. This can be explained by starting and maintaining a behavioral change. They may include the fact that some people think that they have the psychological resources to undertake the desired behavior and the individual's belief to use self regulatory strategies. (Healthy behavior).

In the UK for example, the number of smokers has halved in the last 30 years because of its impact on health. It has been reported that smoking causes 1 in 4 cancer deaths in the UK and thus positive response by people to quit smoking.  Obesity levels have quadrupled in the last 25 years. It is estimated that obesity reduces life expectancy between 3 and 13 years.

Factors that could influence one to make more health-generating choices

Factors that could influence an individual make more health-generating choices include advice from the hospital. A certain unhealthy habit like smoking or excessive drinking leads to cancer related complications and upon visiting one is told to quit altogether such behavior. Messages like smoking cigarettes kills thousands every year, smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer, and other healthy problems, smoking cigarettes shortens your life span will lead to the only other choice for smokers; quitting.  Right counseling of these types of individuals and the fact that their live can end anytime will lead them to quit drug use. (Healthy behavior).

Obesity is a disease caused by unhealthy eating of fatty foods. Obese people feel very uncomfortable with their bodies and most of them will do anything to get rid of the excessive fats. These people have to make and stick to more health-generating choice. (Healthy behavio).

Conclusion

A person's health is influenced by several factors that we have dealt with above. Technology, peer pressure, the family, culture and time all dictate the health of an individual in different ways. Due to these factors, people develop different health behaviors; some which promote and others that diminish good health. Some people stick to these bad habits despite the fact that they know or are ignorant of the consequences.  But some factors like advice from the doctor dictate that one follows a health way of living.

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