Can you help an MSc student with her research on health behaviours?

Hello all

Thank You for taking the time to look at this post.

I am conducting some research into the barriers we face when we think about changing our behaviour to something healthier. The research stems from the discussion of why doctors and nurses are seen smoking and drinking, when they should obviously know the risks of such behaviour? The bottom line is knowledge of the risks is not enough to our change behaviour.

I am looking at 4 health behaviours; diet, exercise, alcohol consumption and smoking. I am interested in hearing from people who are thinking about changing their behaviour, but haven’t made any plans yet to do so. We know how hard it is to climb over the barriers that make it hard for us to change our behaviour. This survey asks you to name those hurdles.

If you have made plans, then you are still free to participate, but the questionnaire will be much shorter.

The survey will ask you if you engage in these 4 health behaviours, if you are making any plans to change, and if not, why not?

It should not take more than 10 minutes of your time, the data is completely anonymous, and will not be used outside the scope of this research. The data will go towards creating a novel measure of risk acceptance. If successful, this measure will be included in tailored interventions to help hundreds of people take the first step towards a healthier life.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at

Thank you again for your help!

Ethical approval

This study has been by approved by University College London's Research Ethics Committee 01/06/2016 (6692/001).

17 Replies

  • Think there may be something wrong with your survey, it took about 30 seconds to complete and didn't ask for any details

  • Hi,

    Thank you for taking part.

    For some people, the questionnaire will be very quick and not ask for opinions. The research is interested in reasons why people don't engage with protective health behaviours such as stopping smoking or eating all your recommended fruit and veg. So if your responses indicate that you are already engaged in behaviour change in all 4 behaviours (smoking, alcohol consumption, getting enough exercise, and eating healthily), or they are not applicable to you, then the survey will only take a minute or two to complete.

    I've tested it and it is working as intended. Thank you for highlighting the potential error! It would have been disastrous had the survey been wrong!

    All the best


  • Ah ok, there's more to healthy eating than getting your five a day though, I easily eat 5 a day and walk a lot but still two stone overweight which isn't particularly healthy

  • actually being fit and fat is healthier than being a beanpole who sits on his/her butt all day. Aside from that have you seen the video 'The Complete Skinny on Obesity'?

    It might explain some of the issues you have in losing weight. Although this one relates to diabetes, as an autoimmune disorder, it could well be applied to the vast majority of us who struggle with weight

  • Hi yes it's a good video. I'm already sold on the lower carb idea, it's not that I struggle to lose weight despite dieting, more that I eat the wrong things due to lack of planning and preparation which is due to massive workload responsibilities . I'm not moaning and making excuses, I'm well aware that only I can make this a priority. My beef with the questionnaire was that it seemed to think you qualify as a healthy eater purely because you eat 5 fruit/veg a day.

  • yeh, I came to the same conclusion but students have to learn somewhere.

    Lack of planning as the enemy is a problem for many of us dieters. I was forever 'gonna start soon' because I kept coming home with carbs in the shopping bag where I'd been tempted in the aisles. What cracked it for me was deciding to do a home shop. Not my preferred method but it worked so I can't complain :)

    I struggled with the diet because I couldn't eat all the food. The 2 egg halloumi omelette I had chosen to have for breakfast kept me so full I wasn't eating till evening - and then I wasn't really hungry. Even so I managed to lose the best part of a stone in less than a fortnight with no detrimental effects. Now I am no longer dieting, just being careful around carbs.

    I know what you mean about work. I use to plough every waking thought into it. But the graveyards are full of indispensable people. You have to look after yourself to give your best to anything else - be that family, friends or responsibility.

  • It's a lot to do with self efficacy , have you looked in to that? I did health studies and psychology at uni and my dissertation was about obesity and the environmental influences. In addition maslows hierarchy of needs gives you a broad overview of why change is not priotised by some. Have you read ewles and simnett 5th edition?

  • I've just done the questionnaire and as above no feedback or asking for my details to follow up. I see your response too. But to be honest - I felt it pointless. I eat healthily, dont smoke and drink responsibly, yet like Fran I am overweight and do next to nothing exercise wise - this is where I need motivation.

  • Thank you LillianGG for your reply.

    I am interested in the member's views of the research being conducted. One of the pitfalls of research of this kind is that is reliant on the forum members to volunteer their experience, but it would not be ethical to make recommendations or give feedback based on the answers. This is due to fact that the research is not yet robust enough to provide effective advice (hence the need for more research!). There are also issues with confidentiality - I cannot trace any individual answers.

    I have mentioned the COM-B model, behaviour change wheel and behaviour change taxonomies in a post further down. These are the psychological models that are informing the research and are worth looking at. The psychology behind motivation is fascinating and there is a lot of work being down to create interventions to improve motivation.

  • I would like to move the fat on my stomach but as I am the ripe old age of eighty four Otis very hard as I am not good at this excercise lark any thing please

  • belly fat - apple shaped instead of pear - is an indication of autoimmune disorder. If this is the case with you then the second of the links I just posted for Fran182716 above might well be of help. If you are seriously interested in doing something about it I can look up some other links and suggestions for you.

  • Can't see any survey.

  • you haven't missed much but you have to go right down to the bottom of the page (after ticking the tick boxes to indicate you know what you are letting yourself in for) and press the start button.

  • A good idea but life isn't as black and white as the questionnaire would seem to believe. For example once I tell it I am trying it is no longer interested yet, although I am trying there are obstacles to my success. It doesn't even ask if I know what the risks are, let alone what obstacles lie in my path, so how can it judge whether knowledge of them has influenced my behaviour or not.

  • I agree that the measure is very black and white. It has been designed to closely follow previous research so my hands are tied in terms of expanding on the issues (a theme which is common in a lot of reductionist research methods). Again, it is true that it makes a pretty big assumption about the participants knowledge of the risks involved.

    If you are interested in the psychological model behind the research, it is worth looking up the COM-B model and the Behavioural Change Wheel. These models postulate that most barriers to do with the uptake and maintenance of healthy behaviours fall into 3 very wide categories; capability, opportunity and motivation. The behaviour change wheel also goes one step further to suggest individual, community and government levels interventions via their taxonomy of behaviour change techniques (BCTv1).

    The volume of research being done around these models are vast - so you may not find anything specific about individual programmes that will work for you (the model is intended for wide public health interventions). However, the material can get you to think about why you perform the behaviour, and what possible avenues there are to change.

  • Ahh, so the purpose of this project is to understand how and why a particular research model might fail. Understanding the root to failure is certainly critical to building a successful strategy. Poor models are responsible for for bad findings - like the one that, in 1977, got the whole of the western world eating its way to poor health on a high carb diet.

  • Close. The purpose is to gather information on the barriers people face to inform a new measure of risk acceptance. The original is posted below:

    "Choose one option that best describes why you are not able to stop XXXX"

    A) I have not heard that XXXX was harmful or risky

    B) I have heard that XXXX is risky but never fully understood what the problem is

    C) I understand what people are saying about the risks of XXXX, but I don’t believe it

    D) I accept that XXXX is risky but don’t care enough to do anything about it

    E) I think it is worth XXXX, but it is not a priority at the moment

    F) I don’t think I can XXXX because things in my social world make it too difficult

    G) I don’t think I can XXXX because things going on in my life make it too difficult

    H) I don’t think I can XXXX because I don’t have the self-control

    I) I want to XXXX, but I don’t know how best to do it

    J) None of the above - Please specify.......

    Not everyone is able to choose one. I am asking people who meet the criteria to explain their own reasons for not engaging in protective health behaviours. The data will help create a better measure. This improved measure can then be combined with the behaviour change wheel and taxonomies to created individualised interventions.

    However, until the data has been collected and the new measure trialed in an experimental setting, no interventions can be made.

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