Editor’s Note: Pun intended.
As they struggle to contain spiraling health-care costs, both government officials and medical experts are finding new reasons to encourage Americans to practice healthy personal habits. But in two new studies, researchers adduce evidence that—official preachments notwithstanding—only the country’s married couples are likely to adopt such habits.
In the first study, completed in 2013 at Indiana and Arizona State Universities, researchers examine Americans’ health behaviors in the adverse economic circumstances created by the meltdown of 2008. The researchers focus particularly on five health behaviors: checking the ingredient label when buying food, choosing foods to eat based on health value, vigorous exercising regularly, abstaining from cigarettes, and regularly using seat belts when driving. To assess these behaviors, the researchers probe data collected in 2005 and again in 2011 from 3,984 mid-life Americans in a Midwestern community-based sample.
The importance of wedlock in fostering good health habits also stands out in a study completed in 2014 by an international team of scholars from five universities (Harvard, University College London, Kings College London, University of Manchester, and Tohoku University of Sendai, Japan). By analyzing data collected between 1999 and 2004 from a nationally representative sample of 4,014 Americans age 60 and over, this international team highlights the role of social relationships—especially marriage—in incubating favorable health habits and fostering avoidance of bad habits.
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