Physician screening for multiple behavioral health risk factors

Am J Prev Med. 2004 Aug;27(2 Suppl):34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2004.04.021.


Background: Screening rates in primary care for single behavioral health risk factors are widely documented. However, such risk factors cluster in individuals and populations. This article examines the number and types of behavioral risk factors that U.S. adults reported, and reported having been screened for in their last routine medical checkup.

Methods: The sample consisted of 16,818 adults from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey who reported having a routine checkup in the past year. Respondents completed questions regarding four behavioral risk factors (physical inactivity, overweight, cigarette smoking, risky drinking), and provider screening for behaviors related to these risk factors.

Results: Half of the sample (52.0%) reported having two or more of the four risk factors, and more than half (59.4%) were screened for two or more risk behaviors during their last routine checkup, although 28.6% reported being screened for none of them. Respondents reporting at least one risk factor were screened for an average of 57.7% of their own risk factors. Women, adults with lower levels of income and education, and those aged 65 and older, reported being screened for fewer of their risk factors.

Conclusions: While guidelines for risk factor screening and intervention typically focus on single behavioral risk factors, most primary care patients present with, and are screened for, more than one. Behavioral risk factor screening tools and interventions must be expanded to cover multiple risks. Additionally, efforts are needed to reduce the substantial missed opportunities for screening, and to eliminate demographic disparities in screening practices and accuracy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Prevalence
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology