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The relationship between habit and healthcare professional behaviour in clinical practice: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sebastian Potthoff, Professor Falko Sniehotta, Dr Marta Marques, Fiona Beyer, Dr Richard Thomson, Dr Leah Avery, Dr Justin Presseau



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018, © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Theories of behaviour used to understand healthcare professional behaviour often focus on the deliberative processes that drive their behaviour; however, less is known about the role that implicit processes such as habit have on healthcare professional behaviour. This systematic review aimed to critically appraise and synthesise research evidence investigating the association between habit and healthcare professional behaviour. A search of five databases (PsycINFO, EMBASE, Scopus and CINAHL) was conducted up until 29 February 2016 to identify studies reporting correlations between habit and healthcare professional behaviours. Meta-analyses were conducted to assess the overall habit-behaviour association across all behaviours. A subgroup analysis assessed whether the habit-behaviour relationship differed depending on whether the behaviour was objectively measured or assessed by self-report. We identified nine eligible studies involving 1975 healthcare professionals that included 28 habit-behaviour correlations. A combined mean r+ of 0.35 (medium effect) was observed between habit and healthcare professional behaviour. The habit-behaviour correlation was not affected by whether behaviour was measured objectively or by self-report. This review suggests that habit plays a significant role in healthcare professional behaviour. Findings may have implications for considering health professionals’ habit when promoting the provision of evidence-based health care, and for breaking existing habit when de-implementing outdated, non-evidence-based practices.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Potthoff S, Rasul O, Sniehotta FF, Marques M, Beyer F, Thomson R, Avery L, Presseau J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Health Psychology Review

Year: 2019

Volume: 13

Issue: 1

Pages: 73-90

Online publication date: 08/01/2019

Acceptance date: 08/11/2018

Date deposited: 05/02/2019

ISSN (print): 1743-7199

ISSN (electronic): 1743-7202

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2018.1547119

PubMed id: 30620248


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Funder referenceFunder name
Cancer Research UK
British Heart Foundation
Centre for Translational Research in Public Health
Economic and Social Research Council
Health Foundation Improvement Science Award
Medical Research Council
National Institute for Health Research
UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence