Behaviour and health
How people behave is central to almost all societal grand challenges, including health and well-being. Declines in physical and mental health, including multimorbidity, are not simply a function of advancing years, but rather are influenced by how people behave across the lifespan.
How people behave is central to almost all societal grand challenges, including health and well-being. Declines in physical and mental health, including multimorbidity, are not simply a function of advancing years, but rather are influenced by how people behave across the lifespan. For example, evidence suggests that two-thirds of premature deaths in the UK are linked to people’s behavioural choices and are, therefore, at least in part, avoidable (Department of Health, 2017) and approximately 60% of chronic diseases are accounted for by 7 primary risk factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor diet (World Health Report, 2010).
The Healthy Lifespan Institute takes a novel approach to understanding the role of behaviour in shaping health and multimorbidity that strives to move away from focusing on specific behaviours in isolation (e.g., alcohol consumption, physical activity) to explore how different behaviours are related within a dynamic system, that includes the broader social and cultural context in which people behave. This is achieved by integrating teams working from the perspective of individuals, social practices, organizations, technology, public health, and other areas.
These behavioural scientists work closely with clinicians and explicitly consider interactions between clinical and non-clinical determinants of multimorbidity. This serves to improve the outcome measures available to behavioural scientists, expose clinicians to the relevance of non-clinical determinants, identify common outcomes that can be used to evaluate and compare interventions, offer the opportunity to consider how clinical and non-clinical interventions interact and, ultimately, optimise interventions.
To advance behavioural science, we need to improve our methods for specifying the things we study, including behaviour, and the relationships between them. Ontologies are formal definitions of categories, properties and relations between concepts, data and entities. Specifically, they provide: (1) unique and unambiguous identifiers (termed ‘classes’ and ‘individuals’ within classes) representing types of entity, (2) labels and definitions corresponding to these identifiers, and 3) formally defined relationships between the entities. We are using ontologies to define behaviour and provide a structure for understanding how behaviours are related (for more information, see link).
Systematic reviews, including meta-analysis.
Experimental methods to study the influence of environmental factors and individual differences in motivated behaviour.
Scott, A. J., Webb, T. L., Martyn-St James, M., Rowse, G., & Weich, S. (2021). Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 60, 101556. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101556