Personal responsibility for health? A review of the arguments and the evidence at century's end

Health Educ Behav. 1999 Feb;26(1):121-40. doi: 10.1177/109019819902600110.


This article examines the continuing controversies regarding personal versus social responsibility for health as they are being played out at the turn of the century. Following a brief examination of the contested meaning of "personal responsibility for health" in recent historical context, attention is focused on the arguments for and against holding the individual to be primarily accountable for his or her health behavior. The paper then makes the case for more balanced, ecological approaches that stress individual responsibility for health within the context of broader social responsibility. The article concludes by briefly summarizing the Canadian approach to health promotion as a useful example of what such a balanced, ecological approach might look like.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Promotion / trends
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Life Style
  • Public Health
  • Self Care* / psychology
  • Social Responsibility*
  • United States