There are few shortcomings of the biomedical perspective on health behaviours and health lifestyles to contrast it the sociological perspective, which has the potential to enhance public health interventions and actions aimed at reducing social differences in health lifestyles.

The biomedical approach takes individual biology as the primary causal agent of health or illness and does not acknowledge the social context in which the human body develops. Under this paradigm, the individual is held accountable for unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, poor eating habits or lack of exercise as well as for illness-producing emotional styles.

This explanatory frame ignores structured variation in social resources and norms and, therefore, it fails to account for the social patterning of healthy lifestyles and associated health outcomes. In addition, the biomedical orientation often reduces health lifestyles to individual innocence or choices, which often leads to though fairly narrow and individually-tailored educational, prevention and cessation programs with too little attention to the social resources people have for understanding the links between behaviour and health. Further, this approach does not explore or address whether people have access to or have social approval for engaging in particular behaviours.

Health researchers and commentators assumed that individuals had a duty to society to choose health-producing behaviours, that positive health behaviours arise from individual goodness/morality, and that negative health behaviours result from fallibility or poor choices. Those who use the individualistic approach ignore evidence of the clear patterning of health behaviours according to social status. They also isolate those behaviours from the social context in which they occur. Hence, the biomedical perspective on health behaviour fails to postulate or explain why or how individuals come to make “choices” about health behaviours or why individuals might fail to choose a positive health lifestyle. In short, the biomedical paradigm is not equipped to address fundamental causes of inequality in health, including the distribution of health lifestyle.