Study suggests socioeconomic status is a predictor of unhealthy behaviors in adults

Individuals at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum are more likely to engage in certain unhealthy behaviors, according to a cohort study conducted by Benjamin A. Shaw, associate professor, in conjunction with the Aging Research Center at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The study, Socioeconomic inequalities in health after age 50: Are health risk behaviors to blame?, was published in Social Science & Medicine.

The study used data collected from the Health and Retirement Study cohort of 19,245 people regarding rates of smoking, heavy drinking, obesity, and physical inactivity, in order to investigate any potential association with socioeconomic background and gender. The authors of the study reach several conclusions that may have implications for the development of health policy aimed at reducing the impact of unhealthy behaviors on health outcomes. The researchers observed higher rates of smoking and physical inactivity in poorer individuals, while a similar trend for obesity was observed in women. To the contrary, rates of heavy drinking were found to decrease with a reduction in socioeconomic status.

This study provides evidence to support the targeted use of resources on promoting healthy behaviors in communities at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. If socioeconomic is a truly a factor in unhealthy behaviors, the public health community may achieve significantly improved health outcomes by coordinating interventions aimed at increasing awareness of unhealthy behaviors in poorer urban communities.

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