-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged Americans with
a college degree are more likely to make healthy lifestyle changes
when confronted with a health problem than those who dropped out of
college or never went, new research finds.
The way in which people respond to new medical conditions could
affect their health in the future, cautioned the author of the
study published in the September issue of the
Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
"This study documents that there are very large differences by education in smoking and physical activity trajectories in middle age, even though many health habits are already set by this stage of the life course," said author Rachel Margolis, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario, in a journal news release.
"Health behavior changes are surprisingly common between ages 50 and 75, and the fact that better-educated middle-aged people are more likely to stop smoking, start physical activity, and maintain both of these behaviors over time has important health ramifications," she added.
Her findings involved more than 16,600 people ranging in age
from 50 to 75 who participated in the U.S. Health and Retirement
Study. Although 41 percent of the participants who dropped out of
college reported smoking at some point between the ages of 50 and
75, only 15 percent of those who graduated college smoked in the
given time frame.
Meanwhile, 14 percent of the college graduates in the study were
consistently physically active, compared to just 2 percent of those
who didn't graduate from high school.
"I found that having more education increased the odds that a person made a healthy behavior change when faced with a new chronic health condition. This finding helps explain why there are educational differences in chronic disease management and health outcomes," Margolis concluded.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides a
healthy behavior change.
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