Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 156-166

First online:

Adoption and maintenance of four health behaviors: Theory-guided longitudinal studies on dental flossing, seat belt use, dietary behavior, and physical activity

  • Ralf SchwarzerAffiliated withHealth Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin Email author 
  • , Benjamin SchüzAffiliated withHealth Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Jochen P. ZiegelmannAffiliated withHealth Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Sonia LippkeAffiliated withHealth Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
  • , Aleksandra LuszczynskaAffiliated withUniversity of SussexWarsaw School of Social Psychology
  • , Urte ScholzAffiliated withUniversität Zürich

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Background: Adoption and maintenance of health behaviors are often poorly predicted by behavioral intentions. To bridge the gap between intentions and behavior, strategic planning and recovery self-efficacy have been suggested as proximal predictors.Purpose: The aim was to examine the usefulness of a prediction model that includes planning and self-efficacy as postintentional mediator variables.Methods: Four longitudinal studies were conducted on dental flossing (Study I, N = 157), seat belt use (Study II, N = 298), dietary behaviors (Study III, N = 700), and physical activity (Study IV, N = 365). Dental flossing and seat belt use were assessed in students by paper-and-pencil questionnaires, whereas dietary behavior and physical activity inventories were presented to the general public in the internet.Results: By structural equation modeling, it was found that one common model fits all four data sets well. Results differed in terms of variance accounted for, but the overall patterns of estimated parameters were similar across samples.Conclusions: Self-efficacy and planning seemed to be functional as proximal predictors of health behaviors, whereas health risk perception appeared to be a negligible factor. When predicting health behaviors, self-regulatory variables should be used in addition to the behavioral intention.