In public health, "lifestyle" generally means a pattern of individual practices and personal behavioral choices that are related to elevated or reduced health risk. Since the mid-1970s, there has been a growing recognition of the significant contribution of personal behavior choices to health risk—in the United States thirty-eight percent of deaths in 1990 were attributed to tobacco, diet and activity patterns, and alcohol. Equally important, illnesses attributable to lifestyle choices play a role in reducing health-related quality of life and in creating health disparities among different segments of the population.
Lifestyles are born of a multitude of causes, from childhood determinants to personality makeup to influences in the cultural, physical, economic, and political environments. Thus, efforts to encourage good health practices should also promote environments that support them. A good resource for lifestyle information is http://www.healthfinder.gov.
DENNIS D. TOLSMA
McGinnis, J. M., and Foege, W. H. (1993). "Actual Causes of Death in the United States." Journal of the American Medical Association 270:2207–2212.