Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor dietary habits and physical inactivity are major determinants of poor health and premature mortality. Socioeconomic gradients in heath behaviours also contribute to inequalities in health and mortality risk. Promoting healthy lifestyles is therefore central to England’s public health strategy. The Public Health Outcomes Framework includes indicators for the four behaviours to enable progress to be tracked.
Health behaviours are patterned by age, gender, socioeconomic circumstances and cultural background and are often resistant to change. While pregnancy is known to facilitate positive lifestyle changes, little is known about whether other common life transitions – e.g. moving out of the parental home and changes in partnership status - are also associated with changes in health behaviours.
To generate robust evidence on contemporary lifestyles requires studies with both large samples and relevant measures of health behaviours and social position (socioeconomic circumstances, cultural background etc.). For evidence on changes in lifestyles, including impacts of life transitions, longitudinal studies are required.
The project aims to enrich the evidence base for public health policies by providing up-to-date information for adults in England on cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity.
The objectives are to:
The project will analyse data from the UK’s largest longitudinal study, Understanding Society: the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). Information on the four health behaviours were collected from study participants in 2010/11 (wave 2) and 2013/14 (wave 5, data scheduled for release in autumn 2015).