Shared Risk and Protective Factors

There are many influences in our lives that can affect our physical and behavioral health and quality of life. Influences that can lead to unhealthy behaviors or negative effects are called “risk factors”, and influences that can support us and lead to positive effects are called “protective factors”. These factors are often interconnected and “shared” amongst multiple effects to our physical and behavioral health and quality of life.

Risk Factors

  • increase the likelihood of experiencing negative impacts, such as injury, disease, or mental health conditions
  • decrease the likelihood of experiencing positive impacts

Protective Factors

  • promote healthy development
  • support people in the face of risk factors and reduce a risk factor’s impact
  • increase the likelihood of experiencing positive impacts
  • decrease the likelihood of experiencing negative outcomes, such as injury, disease, or mental health conditions

Our Environments

The Socioecological Model

Risk and protective factors exist in the nested environments in which we live, learn, work and play. Each level is influenced by the surrounding environments. We should consider an individual in the context of their family, community, society and culture.

This framework is referred to as the socioecological model. 



The individual level includes biological and personal
characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors.




The interpersonal level includes relationships and
interactions with partners, peers, friends and family.




The community level includes neighborhoods,
schools, workplaces, and local organizations.


Societal & Cultural


The societal and cultural level includes
widespread social and cultural norms, the media, economic
and educational policies, and state and federal laws and


SDOH can be grouped into 5 domains:
Examples of SDOH include:

Social Determinants of Health

Along with the socioecological model, social determinants of health (SDOH) relate to our environment and play an important role in a person’s wellbeing.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.


How do we achieve the best physical and behavioral health and quality of life?

How do we achieve the best physical and behavioral health and quality of life for individuals, families, communities, and society? The overarching goal is to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors, and to take action to improve the conditions in people’s environments. 

Risk Factors

Protective Factors

Improve People's Environments

Risk Factor Examples

Protective Factors Examples

Risk Factor
  • Feeling alone, sad, or hopeless
  • Poor mental health
  • Lack of healthy problem-solving skills
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of cultural identity and connection
Protective Factor
  • Connection to a caring adult
  • Feeling of mattering to the community
  • Cultural identity and connection
  • Healthy social, problem-solving, & emotional regulation skills
  • Hopefulness
Risk Factor
Interpersonal and Family
  • Household access to substances or guns
  • Favorable parental attitudes & involvement in problem behaviors
  • Exposure to violence in the home
  • Friends who engage in the problem behavior
Protective Factor
Interpersonal and Family
  • Family connectedness
  • Positive parent relationships
  • Interacting with prosocial and nonviolent peers
  • Household financial security
  • Safe and stable housing
Risk Factor
  • Density of alcohol-related businesses
  • Exposure to violence in the community
Protective Factor
  • School connectedness
  • School readiness
  • Positive/caring school climate
  • Economic opportunities
Risk Factor
Society & Culture
  • Views that drug use and violence are acceptable
  • Availability of alcohol/drugs
  • Poor economic growth and stability
Protective Factor
Society & Culture
  • Culture itself!
  • Communication campaigns focusing on young males
  • Community norms of shared responsibility for supporting parents and families

What are the Effects?

Potential Adverse Effects to
Physical & Behavioral Health and Quality of Life
  • Underage drinking
  • Feeling alone, sad, and/or hopeless
  • Bullying
  • Sexual violence
  • Teen dating violence
  • Youth violence
  • Transportation related injuries
  • Intimate partner (domestic) violence
  • Falls
  • Suicide
  • Youth marijuana use
  • Opioid misuse
Creating Positive Effects


We can build protective factors, reduce risk factors, and support the likelihood of positive effects for:

Individuals: physical and mental health, gainful employment, equitable access to education

Families: safe and stable homes

Communities: safe neighborhoods, equitable access to goods and services, community engagement, equitable infrastructure

Society: equitable government and corporate policies and laws, social and cultural norms and expectations

SRPF in my Work

Standard Approach


Often, public health efforts are limited to one factor, like eliminating a risk factor...


...to reduce a potential unhealthy behavior and negative effect.
SRPF Approach


With an SRPF framework, public health efforts can focus on multiple factors...


...that are shared among multiple effects, resulting in greater impact.

Often, public health efforts are limited to one factor and one effect, typically with a focus on eliminating a risk factor to reduce potential unhealthy behaviors and negative effects. With a shared risk and protective factor (SRPF) framework, public health efforts can focus on multiple factors that are shared among multiple effects, resulting in greater impact. This framework also emphasizes the importance of focusing on protective factors, not just risk factors.

We often see SRPF discussed from a particular lens, such as violence prevention, substance use prevention, or injury prevention. It is important to remember that the “shared” nature of SRPF means that efforts on one risk or protective factor will impact multiple effects, not just effects within one lens.


Depression is a risk factor that is shared by two adverse effects, underage drinking and youth violence. By addressing depression, both underage drinking and youth violence behaviors could be mitigated.

About Shared Risk and Protective Factors in AK

This website highlights the work being done in Alaska to advocate, educate and implement the Shared Risk & Protective Factors framework. 

Focusing on shared risk and protective factors is gaining traction in public and behavioral health initiatives. It allows prevention efforts to have greater reach across multiple areas of concern and creates opportunities to leverage limited resources. Let’s work together to have a greater impact in our communities!