What is Socio-behavioral Studies in Healthcare?

Socio-behavioral healthcareNumerous socio-behavioral studies in healthcare have concluded that there is a social gradient in health in the United States, the highest social class is healthier and have less risk of dying than individuals in lower social classes. In 1968, Ronald M. Andersen, a professor at UCLA, created a socio-behavioral model to test his theory about the disparity of health service access in the U.S. Specifically, Andersen’s research identified the relationship of social inequality and access to health care services. According to the Education Resources Information Center, social-behavioral theory consists of the implementation of socio-behavioral knowledge (SBK) involving the change, stabilization, or control of human behavior. Read on to discover the four characteristics of socio-behavioral studies in healthcare.

Maintain or Modify Behavior

Currently, many socio-behavioral studies are being performed focusing on our nation’s obesity epidemic. Socio-behavior studies, may be information gathering, in support of a specific hypothesis, such as, a relationship between eating behavior and the social environment. The focus of other socio-behavioral studies in healthcare may be to improve the health of obese individuals by bolstering health programs in neighborhoods and communities.

Empirical Corroboration

Socio-behavioral theory is based on the principle that knowledge used to maintain or change behavior, needs to be supported by empirical corroboration, facts observed, measured, or otherwise verified.  Techniques used to gain corroboration, include:

Case Study – Case studies involve single individuals, or small groups of individuals with distinct conditions or circumstances. Information is garnered usually by direct observation, and participants’ self-reports.

Survey – A great deal of information can be gathered, from a large number of people, by surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. Researches are able to make a hypothesis after analyzing the data for similarities, variances, and trends.

Observation – Observational research consists of observing behavior in a laboratory, or in a natural environment. This type of research is limited by the fact that volunteer participants may behave differently than individuals who refuse to participate.

Correlational Research – Correlational research tries to if a link can be established between two variables, such as behaviors, actions, or attitudes. Observational research, interviews, questionnaires, and surveys may all be used to determine a correlation. A positive correlations does not ascertain that one factor causes another, just that two variables are related.

Experimental – Experimental research tries to answer questions of how and why. This type of research involves manipulating an independent variable, and observing the response of a dependent variable.


The practice of socio-behavioral studies in healthcare requires the implementation of SBK to stabilize, maintain or modify behavior. To be operational, the following five areas must be included for implementation.

1. Specifics of problematic behavior, such as, eating behavior leading to obesity.
2. Specifics of environmentally contributing conditions, as in, fast food availability in schools.
3. Specifics on the desired behavior, such as, consuming healthier food.
4. Details of socio-behavioral techniques used, for example, replacing fast food area with a salad bar.
5. Justification detailing the advantage of socio-behavior implementation versus no implementation.

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There is a vast range of healthcare topics that have been the subject of socio-behavioral studies, including domestic violence, autism, prenatal care, and alcohol abuse. The advantages of socio-behavioral studies in healthcare are the foundation of empirical corroboration and tangible techniques.

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