Integrating intention and self-control variables to better predict health behaviors

  • C. Forestier
  • A. Chalabaev
  • J.-.P. Heuzé
  • B. Allenet
  • A. Gauchet
  • P. Sarrazin


According to the WHO, health behaviors change such as smoking, physical activity, and diet, could prevent 75% of cardiovascular-related diseases. Health psychology models identified intention’s determinants to adopt healthy behaviors, but more studies are needed to better understand the intention-behavior gap. The recent integrative self-control theory (Kotabe & Hofmann, 2015) highlights the role of self-control in this gap, which represents our capacity to regulate, inhibit and override immediate desires and habits in order to act congruently with our long-term goals. However, this theory’s premises have not been tested yet empirically, and notably the role of intention with regard to self-control correlates. This research aimed at examining the role of both intention and self-control correlates in predicting adoption of healthy behaviors (physical activity and healthy diet) and avoidance of unhealthy behaviors (tobacco and unhealthy diet). Students (N=390) completed an on-line questionnaire assessing self-control (traits and state), self-control correlates (problematic desire, desire-intention conflict, and resistance to the problematic desire), intention to adopt health behaviors, and health behaviors. Path analyses models were conducted for each behavior separately. Results partly confirmed the premises of the integrative self-control theory, by showing the expected relationships between self-control correlates and behaviors (tobacco R2 = .61, physical activity R2 =.14, healthy diet R2 = .34, unhealthy diet R2 = .08). Self-control also predicted intention, however, contrary to the hypotheses, intention predicted behaviors directly without impacting the conflict felt between desire and intention. Results suggest that intention and self-control correlates act as different pathways of influence on health behaviors.
Oral presentations