Why the concept ''lifestyle diseases'' should be avoided

Scand J Public Health. 2011 Nov;39(7):773-5. doi: 10.1177/1403494811421978. Epub 2011 Sep 22.


The concept lifestyle disease is used about a number of different diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer etc. The concept indicates that people's behaviours cause the diseases. This is only partly true. All diseases, both so-called lifestyle diseases and infectious diseases, have multiple causes. Singling out only one type of causes, such as is implied in the concept of lifestyle diseases can lead prevention to focus only on changing people s behaviours or lifestyles, and thus to neglect other possibilities to improve health. Mortality due to chronic diseases has increased during the last century and the main cause behind this is the decrease in the mortality in infectious diseases among younger people. More people live long enough to develop the chronic diseases. The concept lifestyle disease gives a too narrow picture of causes death and should be abandoned and give place for a broader understanding of causes and preventive options.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Chronic Disease* / mortality
  • Chronic Disease* / prevention & control
  • Concept Formation
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Public Health*