Health behaviour changes and onset of chronic health problems in later life
Objectives: To assess five-year changes in health behaviours in later life and associations with onset of chronic health problems. The results may inform policy and interventions to promote healthy life years in ageing populations.
Methods: Data are derived from the Norwegian study on Life-course, Ageing and Generation (NorLAG), a five-year (2002-2007) panel survey comprising a nation wide community sample. The present analyses include a sample of 1,019 respondents aged 60 years and older. Five-year changes in smoking, alcohol use, physical exercise and Body Mass Index (BMI) are assessed according to prevalent and incident chronic health problems. Multivariate logistic analyses of “healthy” behavioural changes are conducted.
Results: A total of 453 respondents (45%) reported at least one chronic condition and 13% (N=133) reported onset of chronic conditions in the course of the past five years. Over a five-year period, there was an overall reduction in smoking rates and a decrease in regular physical activity. Alcohol consumption in older people slightly increased over time, but the incidence of chronic health problems tended to reduce alcohol intake. Older persons experiencing chronic health problems were less likely to initiate physical activity.
Conclusions: The results provide limited support for the assumption that the onset of a chronic health condition triggers improved health behaviours. This suggests that the health care system could do more in targeting a potential “window of opportunity” for individuals to adopt new healthy behaviours in later life.
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