Your Spouse Can Pass On Good Health Habits

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Being a good role model can truly help a spouse to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

When one spouse quits smoking or drinking, gets a cholesterol screening or rolls up a sleeve for a flu shot, the other spouse is more likely to follow suit, according to a new study published in the journal Health Services Research.

"We consistently find that when one spouse improves his or her behavior, the other spouse is likely to do so as well," said study co-author Tracy Falba, Ph.D.

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"It isn't clear which spouse drives the change, but it is clear that these things happen together," said Falba, a visiting assistant professor in Duke University's Center for Health Policy, Law and Management.

The study found that a spouse's influence differed depending on the health behavior. The sway of the positive role model was strongest when it came to smoking and drinking and weaker for things like getting more vigorous exercise and having a cholesterol test.

In the case of flu shots, a spouse's influence can be "quite striking," Falba said. Husbands whose wives start getting the yearly shot have a 60 percent likelihood of getting the shot themselves, compared with a 21 percent likelihood among husbands whose wives do not get the shot.

Many studies have shown that a spouse's habits

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