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Life events and change in health behaviours at midlife: an analysis of data from the National Survey of Health and Development

Ahmad, B.; (2008) Life events and change in health behaviours at midlife: an analysis of data from the National Survey of Health and Development. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Aim. Limited evidence exists on the effects of life stress on behaviour change, especially amongst middle aged people. This study aims to assess the impact of life stress from stressful life events and being diagnosed with chronic diseases on change in smoking, alcohol use, diet, and physical activity in a national sample of middle aged people. Method. This study used data from 3 waves of the MRC National Survey of Health and Development when the sample was aged 36, 43 and 53 years. A change was defined as the change in the status of particular health behaviour between two consecutive waves (age 36 and 43 years, and age 43 and 53 years). The changes in health behaviours (outcomes) examined were stopping smoking, smoking relapse, increased risk of having an alcohol drinking problem, increased alcohol consumption, change in dietary behaviour (index score), increased physical activity and decreased physical activity. Stressful life events and health related life events were assessed using scores derived from a stressful life events inventory. Diagnosis of a medical condition was the self reported diagnosis of 5 chronic conditions: hypertension, angina, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Associations were assessed at age 43 years, 53 years, and the aggregate of both observations at ages 43 and 53 years. The influence of three social support factors: perceived support, social network, and social participation, and demographic factors: sex, social class, and education level on the association were also assessed. Results. The analysis found that stressful life events was associated with greater odds of smoking relapse in the ex-smokers and lower odds of increased physical activity in the cohort members who were not physically active at baseline. Health related life events were found to be associated with lower odds of increased physical activity. Being diagnosed with at least one medical condition was associated with greater odds of stopping smoking in current smokers, lower odds of smoking relapse in ex- smokers, and increased physical activity. It was also found to be associated with improved diet behaviour in the men. The social support factors were found to influence the effects of the life stressors in some of the associations. Conclusion. Life stress from life events experience does influence health behaviours change amongst a middle aged national sample. However, particular life stress from health related life events, specifically, from being diagnosed with a chronic medical condition can motivate health protective behaviour change. Social support factors buffer the effect of life stress to some extent.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Life events and change in health behaviours at midlife: an analysis of data from the National Survey of Health and Development
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:The MRC National Survey of Health and Development holds the right to the data used in the study.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care > Epidemiology and Public Health

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