A risk factor is defined as something that increases the risk or propensity towards developing a disease, condition, or injury. Wellbeing linked to poor health, disease, disability, or death can be affected by several different risk factors.
There are typically 5 different types of risk factors. These include:
Physiological: Physiological risk factors are those associated with a person’s biology, lifestyle, and other determinates. Physiological risk factors can include:
Behavioural: Behavioural risk factors typically correlate with an action a person decides to take. Behavioural risk factors can include:
Environmental: Environmental risk factors include factors such as social, economic, cultural, and political environments. Environmental risk factors can include:
Demographic: Demographic risk factors are those that relate to a specific demographic, or population. Demographic risk factors can include:
Genetic: Genetic risk factors are those based upon a person’s genetic predisposition. There are countless diseases that occur because of an individual’s genes, including conditions such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. Genetics may also play a role in a person’s propensity towards developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, especially when combined with various environmental risk factors.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined the following 10 risk factors to be the leading causes for global mortality rates:
A behavioural risk factor is defined as a behaviour that has a significant influence on a person’s health and wellbeing. Common behavioural risk factors can include: alcohol consumption, smoking cigarettes, diet and physical inactivity, and sexual practices.
Some risk factors for chronic disease include: high cholesterol levels, excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, diet, physical inactivity, hypertension, and genetic predisposition.
There are several risk factors associated with the development of heart disease. Risk factors that are out of a person’s control can include: genetics, age, post-menopause, and a family history or cardiovascular problems. Risk factors that can lead to heart disease that can be controlled include: diabetes, smoking cigarettes, high cholesterol levels, physical inactivity, and stress.
Risk factors associated with addiction can include: genetic predisposition, stress, depression, eating disorders, personality disorders, and certain brain characteristics. Environmental influences such as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, trauma, neglect, substance abuse amongst family members, and access to addictive substances can all attribute to developing an addiction. While these risk factors do not mean a person will become an addict, they do put them at a higher propensity for developing an addiction at some point of their life.
Risk factors, World Health Organization
Risk factors in health and disease, European Patients’ Academy