Habit Theory in Health

Psychological research on habit formation suggests that making healthy behaviours habitual and breaking the habits underlying unhealthy behaviours can lead to sustainable changes in individuals' actions.

Habits, defined as actions triggered automatically by contextual cues, reduce dependence on conscious attention and motivational processes, making health-promoting actions more automatic and effortless. This is particularly relevant in public health, as it allows for the development of interventions that focus on creating and modifying habits to improve health outcomes. By understanding the psychology of habit formation, public health professionals can provide simple and sustainable behaviour change advice, ultimately contributing to the promotion of healthy living and the prevention of poor health. Additionally, behavioural science theory, including habit-based approaches, can help unify knowledge, predict behaviour, and guide the development of effective public health interventions, making it more likely for public health nursing efforts to succeed. Therefore, integrating habit-based theories into public health strategies can significantly enhance the effectiveness of health promotion and behaviour change initiatives.

PBHM58 Habits

Recommended Reading

Gardner, B., Rebar, A. L., & Lally, P. (2022). How does habit form? Guidelines for tracking real-world habit formation. Cogent psychology, 9(1), 2041277. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311908.2022.2041277 

Further Reading

Automatic versus controlled processing


Implementation intentions

Cognitive bias modification


Ease of behaviour

The Self-report habit Index - https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Ft03772-000

Physical Activity

Weight Loss/Diet/Dietary Change

Hand Washing


Dental Hygiene