Using Habit Theory to Inform Public Health Initiatives Targeting Adolescent Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption (#242)
Background: Obesity has expansive financial and health consequences. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have demonstrated a stronger link to obesity than any other dietary category, with adolescents showing high levels of consumption. Habit theory pertains to behaviours which are performed frequently without extensive cognitive deliberation and may provide a useful framework to understand adolescent SSB consumption.
Aim: This paper aims to analyse the potential role of habit in the effectiveness of interventions aimed at decreasing SSB consumption in adolescents.
Methods: In order to achieve this aim, a review of the literature on habit theory was conducted drawing out key characteristics relevant for public health intervention.
Results: The following characteristics of habits were identified: habits are automatically activated by the environment, they are associated with a bias in information search, are performed smoothly without attracting much attention, are resilient to intentions and experienced outcomes, and take advantage of reduced willpower. Each of these characteristics serves to make habitual behaviour resistant to change and is therefore relevant for informing public health initiatives.
Conclusion: Habit theory has the capacity to inform public health intervention. As the characteristics of habits have yet to be investigated in this population group for this behavior, future research is needed to assess the true breadth of this capacity.