The individual factors that determine health are factors identified within an individual, including: attitudes, knowledge, skills, genetics, and personal characteristics. There are a range of individual factors that determine the health of an individual. The syllabus lists the following individual factors:
What a person knows is one of the more influential individual factors that determine health. In order to improve their health an individual needs to have good health knowledge. That is, they need to know:
- where to get information
- healthy food choices
- recommended levels of physical activity
- how things affect our health (protective and risk behaviours)
- how to interpret food labels, and
- have a wealth of other knowledge related to health
Often health knowledge is linked with health literacy. Health literacy is the ability to understand and interpret health information in order to promote the health of yourself and of others. However, health literacy requires both knowledge and skill.
Individual factors such as skill affect the health of the individual. Skills that are related to health include:
- critical inquiry (know who to trust for information)
- research skills (how to find information)
- practical skills such as:
- problem-solving, and
- movement skills
Such skills can help and individual achieve good levels of health especially when combined with other factors, such as access to information and health professionals, money, and an environment in which they can use these skills in a positive manner.
An individual’s attitude can have either a positive or negative affect on their health. Often achieving good health requires resilience, perseverance, self-belief and determination. People who value health and have these attributes are likely to achieve better health than those who do not. Within attitude the value people place on health is pivotal. People who have a high value of health are more likely to prioritise their health over other demands. This relates to time, money and other aspects of life priorities.
For example, a person who highly values their health and has a high level of perseverance is more like to quit smoking, or not take it up in the first place. They are also more likely to stick to exercise plans and make time to improve their social health as well as their mental and physical health.
Genetics is another of the individual factors that affect health. Genetics refers to the genes you inherit from your parents. These genes can pre-dispose (make things more likely) you to particular diseases or health issues. For example, if your parents have diabetes or cardiovascular disease then you are more likely to also get such diseases.
Furthermore, particular people groups suffer more from particular diseases and are more likely to develop them. An example of this is the higher rates of diabetes among indigenous people, as such indigenous people may be genetically predisposed to diabetes (although this is hard to determine with so many lifestyle factors). Another example is people who are born with white skin and fair hair, who are more likely to develop skin cancer.