Couples More Likely to Get Healthy Together

What You Need to Know: People are more successful in taking up healthy habits if their partner makes positive changes too.

The Evidence: Scientists at UCL funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging looked at how likely people were to quit smoking, start being active, or lose weight in relation to what their partner did. The research looked at 3,722 couples, either married or living together and over the age of 50, who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

  • People were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well. For example, among women who smoked, 50 percent managed to quit if their partner gave up smoking at the same time, compared with 17 per cent of women whose partners were already non-smokers, and eight per cent of those whose partners were regular smokers.
  • Men were equally affected by their partners and were more likely to quit smoking, get active, or lose weight if their partner made the same behaviour change.

My Take: Now is the time to exercise (even a 30 minute brisk walk, 5 times perweek can meaningfully improve your health), maintain a healthy diet and weight, be prudent about alcohol consumption, and quit tobacco. These lifestyle changes can make a big difference to our health and cancer risk. And this study shows that when couples make those changes together they are more likely to succeed. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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References:

  • Sarah E. Jackson, Andrew Steptoe, Jane Wardle. The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554
  • Cancer Research UK. “Couples more likely to get healthy together.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150119124551.htm>.

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understandcancerin60minutes

Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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