Get access

Motivation for health behaviours: a systematic review of the nursing literature


Kim Carter,
School of Nursing,
University of Radford,
PO Box 6964,
VA 24142-6964,


Aims and rationale.  This research review examines nursing and allied health studies exploring motivation for health behaviours to identify the state of understanding of this construct within nursing. This review contributes to nursing science by synthesizing nursing research regarding motivation for health behaviour.

Methods.  Integrative research review methodology.

Findings.  Problems of existing research include nonprobability sampling of heterogeneous populations, low statistical power, and colinearity. Studies identifying predictors of motivation explained large proportions of variance using regression. Motivation was not a significant predictor of health behaviours for over one-third of the studies. Overall, the studies suggest that either motivation is not being effectively measured because of a lack of conceptual clarity or that motivation is not an essential determinant of health behaviours. The latter cannot be verified until psychometric research advances current measurement of motivation to a higher level.

Limitations.  The literature for this review was accessed through the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) database. Databases for other disciplines were not included in this search. This work represents a first step towards understanding motivation for health behaviour as it is currently defined in the literature. Future studies are necessary to broaden this understanding beyond nursing.

Conclusions.  Motivation is a frequently cited rationale underlying the adoption and maintenance of health behaviours in research and practice. Motivation is complex and multidimensional, and clearer definitions for motivation are needed. Populations that have been underrepresented in motivation research need to be targeted in future research. Researchers and practitioners are challenged to examine carefully the role of motivation for health behaviours and explore other factors that may more strongly influence health behaviours.