Health is defined as a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity [World health organization, 1948]. Defining health as the absence of illness, health is recognized to be an achievement involving balance among physical, mental and social well-being. Physical health is inextricably interwoven with psychological and social environment. All conditions of health and illness, not just the disease, identified by the early psychosomatic theorists are influenced by psychological and social factors. The mind and the body cannot be meaningfully separated in matters of health and illness. This article defines health behaviors as any activity undertaken for the purpose of preventing or detecting disease or for improving health and well-being. Common ways of classifying different health behaviors (e.g., health enhancing, health compromising) are examined. Prevalence of key health behaviors (smoking, diet, exercise, screening, sexual behaviors, alcohol use) in different groups and their relationship to morbidity and mortality is reported. This presentation highlights the role of cognitive variables (such as health beliefs, attitudes, self- efficacy) as described in psychological models in understanding the distribution/prevalence of health behaviors and the use of such models in changing health behaviors.
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