Spouses often mirror each other's health habits

Oct 03, 2007

If one spouse exercises, quits smoking, stops drinking alcohol, receives a flu shot, or undergoes a cholesterol screening, the other spouse is more likely to do the same, according to a new study in Health Services Research.

“We found that when one spouse improves his or her health behavior, the other spouse was likely to do so as well,” said co-author Jody Sindelar, health economist and public health professor in the Yale School of Public Health. “This was consistent across all the behaviors analyzed and was similar among both males and females.”

Using longitudinal data on 6,072 individuals and their spouses from the Health and Retirement Study, the researchers found the changes in spouses’ health habits were most apparent in such behavior as smoking and drinking, which is often spurred by outside cues, and in patient-directed preventive behavior, such as getting a flu shot.

For example, smokers were more than five times more likely to quit smoking if their spouse quit, when controlling for other relevant factors. Similarly, spouses were five times more likely to quit drinking alchol if their partner didn’t drink. The changes were less apparent in clinician-directed preventive behavior, such as obtaining cholesterol screening.

Sindelar and co-author Tracy Falba, M.D., visiting assistant professor at Duke University's Center for Health Policy, Law and Management, said health habits and use of preventive services should be viewed in the context of a family. They said attempts to change behavior may be enhanced, or thwarted, by the behavior of family members, especially spouses. For this reason, they said, intervention programs should include tips about how to get the other spouse involved in exercise or help reduce tobacco cues.

Source: Yale University

Explore further: Irish face new abortion row over brain-dead woman

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Ugly' finding: Unattractive workers suffer more

Jun 19, 2013

People who are considered unattractive are more likely to be belittled and bullied in the workplace, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by a Michigan State University business scholar.

Social security: Fixing the glaring gap for women

May 14, 2012

(Phys.org) -- After a lifetime of lower wages and time out of the labor market for caregiving, women typically receive less from Social Security than men, with millions of widows and women of color falling into poverty in ...

Recommended for you

Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body

8 hours ago

The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, finds new UCL research.

Hot flashes linked to increased risk of hip fracture

12 hours ago

Women who experience moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats during menopause tend to have lower bone mineral density and higher rates of hip fracture than peers who do not have menopausal symptoms, according to a ...

Core hospital care team members may surprise you

12 hours ago

Doctors and nurses are traditionally thought to be the primary caretakers of patients in a typical hospital setting. But according to a study at the burn center intensive care unit at Loyola University Health System, three ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.