Associations between health-related behaviors: a 7-year follow-up of adults

Prev Med. 2002 Feb;34(2):162-70. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2001.0965.


Background: The study examines pairwise associations between smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, dietary behavior and body mass index using long-term follow-up data of Finnish adults.

Methods: Respondents to large nationwide health behavior surveys conducted in 1989/1990 were recontacted in 1997. First, we examined whether each health behavior predicted other behaviors 7 years later. Second, we examined whether changes in each health behavior were accompanied by changes in other behaviors.

Results: Smoking at baseline predicted all other health behaviors except body mass index in men. On the other hand, other behaviors tended to predict smoking. Physical inactivity and unhealthy diet were predictive of each other in men. Those with an unhealthy diet at baseline were less likely to be high alcohol users in the follow-up. Baseline body mass index did not predict any of the other behaviors. Concurrent changes in health behaviors involved either smoking or body mass index. Changes in diet and alcohol use were differently related to changes in body mass index in men than in women.

Conclusions: Overall, smoking seemed to play a central role in the associations between health behaviors. Smoking was predictive of most other health behaviors. Concurrent changes in health behaviors related either to smoking or to body weight. The associations between health behaviors were fairly similar for men and women, but the variation in the associations between body mass index and some other health behaviors suggests gender differences in the behavioral response to body weight.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smoking