Choices by individuals to engage in risky behaviors that endanger their health include
using illicit drugs, smoking, overconsuming alcohol, overeating that can lead to
obesity, and practicing unsafe sex. The consequences of these choices go beyond the
individuals and constitute important threats for public health. Traditionally associated
with high-income countries, these behaviors have become increasingly prevalent in
low- and middle-income countries.
Risking Your Health: Causes, Consequences, and Interventions to Prevent Risky
Behaviors explores how those choices are formed and what their consequences are.
Why do people engage in risky behaviors? Many different explanations have been
proposed by experts in psychology, sociology, economics, or public health. One trait
common to all these behaviors is a disconnect‚??a function of both delay and
uncertainty‚??between the pleasure or satisfaction they provide and the consequences
Another characteristic of risky behaviors is that they rarely occur in isolation. Peer
pressure, parental influences, networks, and social norms often play important roles in
initiating, continuing, or quitting those behaviors. Even if individuals might often be
the first to suffer, the consequences of risky behaviors are rarely limited to those
engaging in them. In certain cases, such as secondhand smoking or HIV transmission,
the link is direct. In other cases, the link is less direct but nonetheless real. The
long-term health consequences of these behaviors are costly to treat and could
stretch households' finances and worsen poverty. Finally, these risky behaviors have
consequences for society, because they often trigger significant public health
expenditures and lead to declines in aggregate productivity through premature death
Translating knowledge into concrete changes in behavior seems to be hard to
achieve. Public health interventions via legislation with strong enforcement
mechanisms can be more effective than simple communication campaigns informing
consumers about the risks associated with certain behaviors. Economic mechanisms
such as taxes, subsidies, and conditional/unconditional cash transfers are also used to
reduce risky behaviors.
Of great interest to policy makers, academics, and practitioners, this book
investigates the causes and consequences of risky behaviors and assesses the
efficiency of those interventions designed to reduce the prevalence of behaviors that
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