Health protective behaviors are actions linked to decreasing risk factors, reducing negative health outcomes, and facilitating a healthy lifestyle. Health protective behaviors can be at the individual, familial, or community level, which all work together to eliminate risk factors that impair health. Individual factors incorporate having constructive perceptions about one’s character; such as a positive self-image, good self-control, and proficient social skills. Upholding a positive self-image can reduce mental health issues and encourage confidence in one’s capabilities. Exercising self-control lowers the risk of substance abuse and various addictions, resulting in better health and wellbeing.
Adept social skills help individuals function in society. A study published in the Journal of Health Communication suggests that, “Boosting the frequency and quality of social interactions could help stave off the negative effects that stress and loneliness can have on physical and mental health” (Segrin, 2017). Family and community dynamics work interchangeably, influencing health protective behaviors. Both offer various types of social support: emotional, instrumental, belonging, and informational. Emotional support is encouragement from friends, family, or peers to either stop, start, or continue a certain behavior. Instrumental support is tangible help; for example, a friend or family member picking up someone’s child from daycare for them, so that they can go to the gym. Belonging is when some individual feels most comfortable, perhaps in particular social settings that promote health protective behaviors. The last form of social support is informational. This type of support is derived from information one attains from their social networks.
Bandura’s social cognitive theory and reciprocal determinism helps to demonstrate the numerous factors that can affect health protective behaviors. It demonstrates how the individual and their environment both interact with and affect one another.