Using health psychology to help patients: theories of behaviour change

Br J Nurs. 2016 Sep 8;25(16):924-7. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2016.25.16.924.


Behaviour change theories and related research evidence highlight the complexity of making and sticking to health-related behaviour changes. These theories make explicit factors that influence behaviour change, such as health beliefs, past behaviour, intention, social influences, perceived control and the context of the behaviour. Nurses can use this information to understand why a particular patient may find making recommended health behaviour changes difficult and to determine factors that may help them. This article outlines five well-established theories of behaviour change: the health belief model, the theory of planned behaviour, the stages of change model, self-determination theory, and temporal self-regulation theory. The evidence for interventions that are informed by these theories is then explored and appraised. The extent and quality of evidence varies depending on the type of behaviour and patients targeted, but evidence from randomised controlled trials indicates that interventions informed by theory can result in behaviour change.

Keywords: behaviour change; health belief model; self-determination theory; self-regulation; stages of change.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Medicine*
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Motivation*
  • Nursing*
  • Psychological Theory