Habit versus choice: the process of decision-making in health-related behaviour.

Eva Lindbladh, Carl Hampus Lyttkens

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103 Citations (SciVal)


Social differences in the role of habits in health-related behaviour are explored within both sociology and economics, where we define habits as non-reflective, repetitive behaviour. The corresponding theoretical perspectives are the habitus theory, the theory of individualization, and habits as rational decision rules. Sixteen thematically structured interviews are analysed using qualitative methodology.

Three aspects of habits emerged from the narrative: the association between habits and preferences, habits as a source of utility, and the relationship between habits and norms. We find that people in lower social positions are more inclined to rely on their habits and are accordingly less likely to change their behaviour. These differences are reinforced as not only the disposition to maintain habits but also the tendency to conceive of the habitual as something good seems to be strengthened in lower social positions.

We also note that the intensified individualization that characterizes current society erodes the basis for habit-governed behaviour, which may also contribute to social differences in well-being. Finally, we find that the scientific dialogue has enriched both scientific paradigms, and suggest as a tentative hypothesis that the traditional economic rational-actor model may be relatively less applicable to those with limited resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-465
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


  • Habits
  • Attitude to Health
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Human
  • Interviews
  • Male
  • Middle Age
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Support
  • Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Sweden


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