A Narrative Review of the Definition of Lifestyle


A lifestyle is a person’s way of life based on their values and interests, which is established by the individual’s choices and habits. It can be influenced by antecedent factors such as education and socioeconomic status, but it also depends on the individual’s personal context. The lifestyle model has been used in many research and intervention projects in the field of health promotion, as it is a conceptual construct that encompasses several components of the individual’s daily behaviours. Having a clear definition of lifestyle would help the field of health promotion to move forward and develop new approaches for the design of lifestyle intervention models.

In the current literature on lifestyle, there are various definitions describing the concept from a psychological and sociological perspective. A narrative review of the major explicit definitions has been carried out to categorise their content into three interpretative keys: internal dimension, external dimension and temporal dimension (Table 1).

Theories that emphasise an internal dimension describe lifestyle as a set of behavioural patterns resulting from the personal choice and influenced by social position. The main examples of such theories are the models of Weber and Bourdieu. However, such models lack clarity on the nature of lifestyles and do not explain how they are formed and how they evolve over time.

In contrast, sociological models of lifestyle are more comprehensive and include an analysis of the social context in which the individual lives as well as the values and interests that define a person. These include leisure activities, hobbies and passions as well as the use of and attitudes towards time, work and the environment.

Sociomedical models often describe lifestyle as the set of healthy and unhealthy behavioural patterns that influence the state of health. Considering that health is not just a physical matter, but also a mental and emotional state of being, these models consider that lifestyle may have a positive or negative impact on the state of health and can be modified by targeted educational campaigns.

There is also a tendency to focus on the presence and frequency of risk behaviours in the context of the ‘risk society’, which has led to the development of a lifestyle approach that includes a series of healthy and unhealthy behavioural patterns. This approach is characterised by the notion of ‘behavioural control’, where an individual takes responsibility for their own risk behaviours.

Moreover, some of the most important and influential lifestyle models include a focus on dietary habits and the development of an active, healthy body and mind. These are defined as lifestyles that encourage a balanced diet, adequate exercise and rest, avoidance of smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol, the pursuit of long-term goals, and the development of an identity rooted in values such as self-respect and respect for others. In addition, these lifestyles are a good source of pleasure and fulfilment. As a result, they promote a positive attitude towards the future and a sense of wellbeing.