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How do health behaviour interventions take account of social context? A literature trend and co-citation analysis

Holman, Daniel, Lynch, Rebecca and Reeves, Aaron (2018) How do health behaviour interventions take account of social context? A literature trend and co-citation analysis. Health: an Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 22 (4). pp. 389-410. ISSN 1363-4593

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1363459317695630


In recent years, health behaviour interventions have received a great deal of attention in both research and policy as a means of encouraging people to lead healthier lives. The emphasis of such interventions has varied over time, in terms of level of intervention (e.g. individual vs community) and drawing on different disciplinary perspectives. Recently, a number of critiques have focused on how health behaviour interventions sometimes sideline issues of social context, framing health as a matter of individual choice and, by implication, a personal responsibility. Part of this criticism is that health behaviour interventions often do not draw on alternative social science understandings of the structured and contextual aspects of behaviour and health. Yet to our knowledge, no study has attempted to empirically assess the extent to which, and in what ways, the health behaviour intervention field has paid attention to social context. In this article, we undertake this task using bibliometric techniques in order to map out the health behaviour intervention field. We find that the number of health behaviour interventions has grown rapidly in recent years, especially since around 2006, and that references to social science disciplines and concepts that foreground issues of social context are rare and, relatively speaking, constitute less of the field post 2006. More quantifiable concepts are used most, and those more close to the complexities of social context are mentioned least. The document co-citation analysis suggests that pre 2006, documents referring to social context were relatively diffuse in the network of key citations, but post 2006 this influence had largely diminished. The journal co-citation analysis shows less disciplinary overlap post 2006. At present, health behaviour interventions are continuing to focus on individualised approaches drawn from behavioural psychology and behavioural economics. Our findings lend empirical support to a number of recent papers that suggest more interdisciplinary collaboration is needed to advance the field.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 the Author(s)
Divisions: International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2018 10:43
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:04

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