Health Belief Model (HBM)

Nursing theories

open access articles on nursing theories and models

Health Belief Model (HBM)


  • The Health Belief Model (HBM) is one of the first theories of health behavior.

  • It was developed in the 1950s by a group of U.S. Public Health Service social psychologists who wanted to explain why so few people were participating in programs to prevent and detect disease.

  • HBM is a good model for addressing problem behaviors that evoke health concerns (e.g., high-risk sexual behavior and the possibility of contracting HIV) (Croyle RT, 2005)

  • The health belief model proposes that a person's health-related behavior depends on the person's perception of four critical areas:

    1. the severity of a potential illness,

    2. the person's susceptibility to that illness,

    3. the benefits of taking a preventive action, and

    4. the barriers to taking that action.

  • HBM is a popular model applied in nursing, especially in issues focusing on patient compliance and preventive health care practices.

  • The model postulates that health-seeking behaviour is influenced by a person’s perception of a threat posed by a health problem and the value associated with actions aimed at reducing the threat.

  • HBM addresses the relationship between a person’s beliefs and behaviors. It provides a way to understanding and predicting how clients will behave in relation to their health and how they will comply with health care therapies.

health_belief _model


There are six major concepts in HBM:

1.      Perceived Susceptibility

2.      Perceived severity

3.      Perceived benefits

4.      Perceived costs

5.      Motivation

6.      Enabling or modifying factors

  1. Perceived Susceptibility: refers to a person’s perception that a health problem is personally relevant or that a diagnosis of illness is accurate.

  2. Perceived severity:  even when one recognizes personal susceptibility, action will not occur unless the individual perceives the severity to be high enough to have serious organic or social complications.

  3. Perceived benefits: refers to the patient’s belief that a given treatment will cure the illness or help to prevent it.

  4. Perceived Costs: refers to the complexity, duration, and accessibility and accessibility of the treatment.

  5. Motivation: includes the desire to comply with a treatment and the belief that people should do what.

  6. Modifying factors: include personality variables, patient satisfaction, and socio-demographic factors.  

Criticisms of HBM

  • Is health behaviour that rational?

  • Its emphasis on the individual (HBM ignores social and economic factors)

  • ·The absence of a role for emotional factors such as fear and denial.

  • Alternative factors may predict health behaviour, such as outcome expectancy (whether the person feels they will be healthier as a result of their behaviour) and self-efficacy (the person’s belief in their ability to carry out preventative behaviour) (Seydel et al. 1990; Schwarzer 1992.


  1. Marriner TA, Raile AM. Nursing theorists and their work. 5th ed. Sakraida T.Nola J. Pender. The Health Promotion Model. St Louis: Mosby; 2005

  2. Polit DF, Beck CT. Nursing research:Principles and methods. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007

  3. Black JM, Hawks JH, Keene AM. Medical surgical nursing. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Mosby; 2006.

  4. Potter PA, Perry AG. Fundamentals of nursing. 6th ed. St.Louis: Elsevier Mosby; 2006.

  5. Rosenstoch I. Historical origin of Health Belief model. Health Educ Monogr 2:334, 1974.

  6. Croyle RT. Theory at a Glance: Application to Health Promotion and Health Behavior (Second Edition). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2005.

This page was last updated on: 03/12/2020