Measuring Health Behaviors

The measurement of health behaviors is useful for both program planning and evaluation. There are several methods that exist to assess behaviors in the general population. Most research on health behaviors uses self-report measures as a way to gain information from the subjects in the study. A self-report is a type of survey, questionnaire, or poll in which responders are asked about their feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and so on. However, this measure has validity problems. Participants may exaggerate their symptoms, or may under-report the severity or frequency of symptoms. They may also forget certain details. Validity and reliability are very important in the assessment of a health behavior. Participants provide information such as:

  • Demographic (age, sex)
  • Skill (ability to perform)
  • Behavior factors (exercise habits)
  • Environmental factors (access to care)
  • Health factors (number of risk factors)