Factors Influencing the Health Lifestyles in Tehran, with a Focus on the Media Consumption



Received: 04/30/2016

Accepted: 09/15/2016

Extended Abstract:

Introduction and Problematic of Research: Nowadays, improvements in health are considered to be an achievement. It is something that people should work on that to promote their quality of life, and if they don't do so, they would risk being affected by chronic diseases and untimely death. Given the ability to control infectious diseases and human being increased life expectancy, in today's society certain illnesses have developed that have something to do with nutrition. All kinds of cancers, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure are among diseases requiring the doubled attention of experts to nutrition and health-related issues. For the time being, controlling non-infectious diseases needs more serious and delicate treatments; these diseases stem much from improper lifestyles, leading to all kinds of illnesses and ultimately premature death. Nowadays, sociologists believe it is the lifestyle of individuals that provide an effective guarantee for their health otherwise there is a risk for development of an unhealthy society. Accordingly, most people unrealistically assume it is them who choose their own lifestyles; this is while the reality shows otherwise. The choices of most people take place within a limited structure, one that plays a key role in adjusting individuals' choices (Mirzaei et al, 2010: 114). Meanwhile, globalization has brought about new challenges for health policymakers; these challenges prompt changes in people's consumption pattern and lifestyle, particularly in health-related areas. Furthermore, mass media have affected significantly the public health by their role in individuals' lives and as the main source of health-related information (Nandy and Nandy, 1997: 238). In the present day, the relationship between mass media and health issue is a reciprocal one. On the one hand, health promotion is an important area of coverage for media, and on the other, health needs to be promoted by media due to its mission for awareness-making (Kia et al, 2012: 111). This is where the problematic of our research resides.

Theoretical Framework: The theoretical framework for this study draws upon William Cockerham's Health Lifestyles Model. Cockerham believes that the type of experiences and the process of socialization, which itself is the product of different structural variables, provides capacities for life choices based on which individuals choose and assess their actions, giving them the ability to interpret their conditions, making choices and organize their behaviors in accordance with their mentalities (Cockerham, 2013: 138).

However, other factors related to media consumption and the role and status of media in the process of people's sociability are added to this research, because Cockerham's model does not directly deal with media consumption and the level of using this component by individuals. Given the role and influence of media in people's everyday lives and their instructive role in all areas, particularly in health domain, it seems this aspect is a necessity which somehow completes Cokerham's model.

Methodology: It is worth noting that this study uses the capacities of survey methods. The present research, as a Ph.D. thesis in Social Communications in Allameh Tabatabaee University was carried out in Tehran, surveying a sample of 802 individuals (the age of 18 and above). In this survey, the researchers tried to study the key factors (including, people media consumption, social-economic status) affecting the health lifestyle of citizens in all 22 Municipal Districts of Tehran.

Some of the objectives of this research include: identifying the manner and the extent to which Tehran citizens have access to health-related messages produced by media; recognizing the quantity and quality of behaviors and health lifestyles of the individuals; assessing the health lifestyle of Tehran citizens base on the amount of media consumption and social and economic class of the individuals.

Finding and Discussion: This paper which is written based on the research, tries to demonstrate the extent to which Tehran citizens have a healthy lifestyle; it also seeks to explain the factors affecting health lifestyle choices. It needn't to say that adopting a healthy lifestyle allows everyone to have some personal control on his own health condition as a preventive measure. The findings indicate that there is a significant relationship between individuals' media consumption and their health lifestyle. There is also a significant relationship between health lifestyles and social and economic class of individuals. In other words, healthier lifestyles were observed among individuals with more media consumption. Other findings show that only 9% of the respondents had''healthy” lifestyles and 45% had a "somehow healthy" lifestyle. In terms of the Body Mass Indicator (BMI), around 40% of the individuals were obese. Men compared to women had a healthier lifestyle and behaviors; it was also found that people with healthy lifestyle are more persistent than other media active audience in pursuing media health-related programs. Furthermore, the finding indicated that lower social-economic class has to do with the lower media consumption.

There was also a relationship between the respondents' social-economic status and the following variables: the amount of out-eating; the number of annual medical check-ups; the amount of medicines taken; self-treatment frequencies; observing traffic law. As the social-economic class went higher, the abovementioned variables ascended accordingly.

Wholly, the findings indicate that those class which have higher media consumption and pursue health-related news more, have a healthier lifestyle. Also, men have a healthier lifestyle than women, which do not confirm the findings of Cockerham's global studies. Also women have a higher Body Mass Indicator (BMI) than men, which indicates women are more fat and obese than men.

Given the mentioned findings, this paper suggests: for having a healthier society in future, one should focus on health through communications and putting the center of attention on women; to reach this goal and promote media consumption among people from all walks of life, health-focused synergic education in all mass media (radio, TV, the Internet and press) is needed.