The Concept of Lifestyle


The concept of lifestyle has been the focus of a broad spectrum of sociological and psychological perspectives and research. It has been described as a personal identity, a mode of living, a set of attitudes, a behaviour model, and a value system. Some scholars have argued that it can be used at global, structural, and positional levels; others believe that it can only be defined at the individual level, as a way of life or style of living (Pulkkinen & Kokko 2000).

In some research, such as the study by Cockerham and Prothero on sedentary people, the term ‘lifestyle’ is used to refer to an integrated pattern of behaviours, beliefs and attitudes that determines how people live their lives. It may also refer to the health-related behaviours and beliefs of an individual, including diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption (Stoll-Kleemann et al. 2001).

Another approach focuses on the interaction between a person’s lifestyle and the social structure. Thorstein Veblen introduced the concept of a ‘scheme of life’, which includes specific patterns of conspicuous consumption, and argues that these are adopted by individuals in order to differentiate themselves from those whom they identify as inferior, as well as in order to emulate those that they believe enjoy prestige. Max Weber takes this analysis a step further and identifies lifestyle as distinctive elements of status groups, which express the differentiation and recognition of these within society.

A third view has focused on the role of lifestyle in the fulfilment of needs. For example, Adler argues that an individual’s lifestyle is shaped by the fundamental personality characteristics that are formed during childhood and which shape their reactions and behaviours in society. Rokeach developed this idea and argued that each individual had a set of values, behavioural models, attitudes, and behaviours that determined their lifestyle.

At the individual level, it is common for people to have more than one lifestyle – they are able to switch between different ways of life, for instance from a more hedonistic lifestyle to a service-oriented lifestyle, and many people are able to achieve this in their own unique way.

At the global level, there are many concerns about the impact of lifestyles on the environment and society. For example, there are concerns about the growing numbers of sedentary people worldwide, who consume too much, and as a result use up natural resources and energy. There are also concerns about the increasing number of people who live in unhealthy lifestyles, and that these contribute to the development of diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. These problems are being tackled at a number of levels, from local communities to the international level. However, it is important that any approach to solving these problems is based on accurate understanding of the factors that drive lifestyles. To do this, it is vital that researchers develop and test more precise definitions of what lifestyle means, as the current understanding is not fully comprehensive or accurate enough.