A risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury (WHO, 2018). Risk factors can be at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level. Biological and psychological elements are individual level risk factors consisting of genetic predisposition to developing a negative health behavior, or poor health in general. Familial disease history can predict the possibility of developing a disease or the likelihood of addiction in a person’s future. Inherited genes from a parent can increase one’s susceptibility to cancer, cardiovascular disease, substance addiction and various mental illnesses.
Biological factors combined with environmental factors such as family, community, and culture all work together to impact health behavior. Environmental effects are all variable risk factors incorporating socioeconomic status, traumatic experiences as a child, friend groups, and social norms. Geographic location can either positively or negatively influence individual behavior. Poverty stricken neighborhoods reap the harmful effects that negatively impact one’s health. Exposures to toxic contamination, poor public sanitation, limited transportation (to access healthcare services or to adequate sources of nutrition), and an unsafe environment to exercise in all yield undesirable health outcomes and quality of life.