Summary: A growing share of the burden of disease across the world is associated with risky behaviors by individuals. Drug use, smoking, alcohol, unhealthy eating causing obesity, and unsafe sex are highly prevalent in low-income countries, even though they are traditionally associated with richer countries. Understanding the factors driving those behaviors represents a priority not only from a public health perspective but from a broader development one. This report summarizes the existing evidence about the causes and consequences of those behaviors, as well as about interventions aimed at preventing them from a broad range of sources. The opening chapter, by Damien de Walque and Sébastien Piguet, presents an epidemiological overview, illustrated by tables, figures, and maps, of the global prevalence and distribution of the risky behaviors that are the focus of this book. The second chapter, by Mattias Lundberg and Gil Shapira, covers the determinants of health-related risky behaviors in the developing world. Chapter 3, by Alaka Holla, explores the consequences of risky behaviors, focusing on their direct impact on the individual engaging in them, the spillovers to peers, and the costs that society must bear. Chapters 4 and 5, by Aakanksha Pande, discuss interventions to reduce the prevalence of risky behaviors. The findings show that information and regulation interventions can be successful in changing risky behaviors. An important lesson that emerges from this review is that even when interventions are effective, externalities often emerge that need to be considered.
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