Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spouses help each other to clean up their act

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, says this report on Medical News Today.

"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.

"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.

Many studies have shown that a spouse's habits and sometimes even marriage itself can influence individual health behaviors, the Medical News Today report adds. A 2006 study from researchers at Northwestern University found that marriage tends to make young men and women "clean up their act" and indulge in less binge drinking and marijuana use.

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