Research & Resources

The role of self-regulation in changing health behaviors

Many behavior change interventions target self-regulation to improve the health and lives of patients. Researchers recently tried to synthesize currently available information through a meta-review of the scientific literature on self-regulation and related interventions. They looked for common factors of successful interventions and questions for future research across a variety of health behaviors, including smoking, alcohol use, drug use, nutrition, physical aggression, and sexual practices. They found that the most effective interventions included delivery of multiple components like group, individual, or computer therapy; screening; pharmacotherapy; focus on one behavior; personalized feedback and tailoring; identification of barriers; and peer social support. Their recommendations for future research and practice include integrating different types of approaches and matching interventions to patient characteristics. The paper, “How best to reduce unhealthy risk-taking behaviours? A meta-review of evidence syntheses of interventions using self-regulation principles,” was funded by the National Institute on Aging. It was published in the journal Health Psychology Review.