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The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle: Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed

The behavioural profile of a population is a key determinant of population health. A study published in the journal Health Affairs found that people who refrain from engaging in risky health behaviours have a longer life and more years of life are spent in good health.

The study was conducted by Mikko Myrskylä, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany; and Neil Mehta, Professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan, USA. They analysed data for more than 14,000 adults aged 50-89 from the Health and Retirement Study who had never smoked, who were not obese, and who consumed alcohol moderately.

Those adults who reported having no limitations in the activities of daily living (walking, dressing, bathing, getting out of bed, or eating) were classified as free of disability. The participants who had a body mass index of less than 30 were classified as not obese. Those who had smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime were considered never smokers. Men who had fewer than 14 drinks per week and women who had fewer than seven drinks per week were considered moderate drinkers.

The researchers analysed the ages at which the individuals with these healthy behaviours first became disabled, how many years they lived with disability, and their total life expectancy and these results with compared to those of the general population, and also to profiles of individuals with particularly risky behaviour.

The study found that never-smokers who were not obese lived 4-5 years longer than the general population, and that these extra years were free of disability. The results of the analysis further indicated that individuals who also consumed alcohol moderately lived seven more disability-free years than the general population.

These results provide a benchmark for evaluating the damaging effects that behavioural risks have on health at older ages and the importance of prioritising policies to implement behavioural-based interventions, the authors comment.

Source: The Population Health Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle: Life Expectancy Increased And Onset Of Disability Delayed. Neil Mehta, Mikko Myrskyl. Health Affairs, 2017; 10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1569 DOI: 10.1377/ hlthaff.2016.1569.


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