This chapter provides a historical overview of health behaviour research and takes a critical stand towards that most theory-based research on health behaviours is based on social cognition models, focussing mainly on personal factors and perceived aspects of the social environment. The chapter argues that social processes in different settings and at different systems levels must be taken into account by addressing larger social, physical, organisational, cultural and societal contexts when aiming at explaining health behaviours.
A conceptual model describing these contextual factors is presented. The model represents a way to systematize domains or systems of factors (personal, micro and macro level factors) believed to be important when analyzing the widest possible range of external influences on health behaviours. For each contextual factor the mediating or moderating role it may have on the health behaviour outcome is examined by using theory and empirical research findings.