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New medical conditions more likely to spark healthy changes among better-educated middle-aged people
Date:8/28/2013

WASHINGTON, DC, August 27, 2013 -- Better-educated middle-aged Americans are less likely to smoke and more apt to be physically active than their less-educated peers. They are also more inclined to make healthy changes -- in general and in the face of new medical conditions -- and adhere to them, according to a new study in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

"This study documents that there are very large differences by education in smoking and physical activity trajectories in middle age, even though many health habits are already set by this stage of the life course," said study author Rachel Margolis, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario. "Health behavior changes are surprisingly common between ages 50 and 75, and the fact that better-educated middle-aged people are more likely to stop smoking, start physical activity, and maintain both of these behaviors over time has important health ramifications."

In her study, "Educational Differences in Healthy Behavior Changes and Adherence Among Middle-aged Americans," Margolis draws on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a longitudinal study of aging that is nationally representative of the U.S. population above age 50. Her analysis considers more than 16,600 HRS participants ages 50-75 during the study period 1992-2010.

Margolis found that 15 percent of college-educated respondents smoked at some point between ages 50-75, compared to 41 percent of college dropouts. There were also large differences by education in physical activity over the study period. For example, 14 percent of college-educated respondents were physically active at all interviews during the study period, compared with 2 percent of those with less than a high school education. In addition to college graduates and high school dropouts, Margolis analyzed people with only a high school degree and individuals with some college education
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Contact: Daniel Fowler
pubinfo@asanet.org
202-527-7885
American Sociological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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