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Influence of Partner on Healthy Behavior

Want Your Partner to Live a Healthy Lifestyle? Start Yourself, Suggests a New Study

Human behavior is thought to play a pivotal role in well-being, health outcomes, and disease processes. We are all creatures of habit and purposeful behavior change is both difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain. Although we all are aware of benefits of healthy lifestyle in achieving an overall good health, most of the times we fail to adhere to the healthy habits. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that cohabiting couples who have a ‘healthier’ partner are more likely to get influences to change their lifestyle to make it healthier.

For this study, Dr. Jackson and team used prospective data from  3722 married and cohabiting couples who were a part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The researchers evaluated the lifestyle of these couples in three domains as smoking, physically inactive, or overweight/obese. After obtaining the information relating to these lifestyle domains, the researchers used some statistical models to examine the influence of the partner’s behavior in the same domain.

On analysis of data, it was found that when one partner changed to a healthier behavior (newly healthy), the other partner was more likely to make a positive health behavior change than if their partner remained unhealthy. This change was seen across all lifestyle domains. Interestingly, the influence was found to be higher if the partner became newly healthy, than the one who always was healthy.

As reported by ScienceDaily, Dr Sarah Jackson, lead author of the study, said: "Now is the time to make New Year's resolutions to quit smoking, take exercise, or lose weight. And doing it with your partner increases your chances of success."

The findings of this study send out an important message to the couples that involving partners in behavior change interventions may help improve outcomes. So, those of you who want your spouse /partner to quit smoking or start exercising, start doing it yourself first.


Jackson SE, Steptoe A. The Influence of Partner's Behavior on Health Behavior Change: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Intern Med. 2015.

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