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Changes in Health Behaviors and Longevity

White, James; Kivimäki, Mika; Batty, G., David

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000824

Centre for Trials Research, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, United Kingdom

Data availability: The data are available from the UK Data Archive ( and statistical code in the online supplement.

The results reported herein correspond to specific aims of grant MR/KO232331/1 to investigator Prof Campbell from British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the Welsh Government, and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (Dr. White). All funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available through direct URL citations in the HTML and PDF versions of this article (

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To the Editor:

Smoking, excess alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and low fruit and vegetable consumption are well-documented risk factors for mortality.1–4 Very few studies have, however, examined the association between changes in these behaviors and future mortality. Randomized trials have found smoking cessation reduces mortality risk.1 Observational studies suggest that changes in physical activity are associated with mortality risk,2 but for fruit and vegetable and alcohol consumption the evidence is mixed.3 , 4 These studies have also examined changes in isolation, but unhealthy changes in behavior may offset any beneficial effects accrued from healthy changes. For instance, smoking cessation is associated with around 4.7 kg (10.4 lbs) weight gain after 12 months,5 and reductions in caloric intake may be compensated by concomitant reductions in physical activity.6 This study examined the associations of both healthy and unhealthy changes in behavior with the risk of all-cause mortality.

We used data from the Health and Lifestyle Survey I (1984/5) and II (1991–1992), a prospective cohort of residents in England, Wales, and Scotland aged ≥ 18 years in 1984. The study was approved by local ethics committees. An interviewer assessed participants’ current smoking status, alcohol consumption (≥ 14 per week for women/ ≥ 21 units for men), physical activity (≥ 2 hours a week), and fruit and vegetables consumption (≥ 3 times a day over the past year). Healthy and unhealthy changes between survey I and II were coded. We compared rates of mortality from all-causes between people making healthy and unhealthy changes using Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for other changes in behaviors, demographics, occupational social class (including an unemployed category), and physical health conditions. We imputed missing data using multiple imputation to generate 10 data sets. We checked the proportional hazards assumption for Cox models using Schoenfeld residuals and found it was unviolated. Analyses were done using Stata (StataCorp), version 13.0.

Of the 9,003 baseline participants (74% of those recruited in survey I), 5,352 (59%) also took part in survey II. We excluded study members who had died between surveys (n = 880), resulting in an analytical sample of 8,123 (4,666 women, median age, 41 years [interquartile range, 30–56] with 2,003 deaths occurring over a median follow-up of 7 years [interquartile range, 6–7]) (Table). The risk of mortality was associated with increases (model 2 hazard ratio [HR] = 0.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.8–1.0) and decreases (model 2 HR = 1.1; 95% CI, 0.9–1.3) in physical activity, and reductions in fruit and vegetable consumption (model 2 HR = 1.3; 95% CI = 1.0–1.7). Changes in smoking status and alcohol consumption were not related to mortality rates. Sensitivity analyses in samples excluding people with missing data (n = 3,163), physical illness (n = 6,753), who died within 5 years of 1991/2 (n = 7,350) and with minimal adjustments produced the same pattern of results (eTables 1–4;



In this study, changes in physical activity and decreases in fruit and vegetable consumption were weakly associated with all-cause mortality. These findings confirm those from smaller studies, suggesting modest increases in physical activity are associated with a 30–40% reduction in mortality2 and are in agreement with the PREDIMED trial, which found decreases in mortality after increases in fruit consumption.3 We found no clear association between changes in smoking status or alcohol consumption with mortality risk. The benefits of smoking cessation have generally been found in populations older than those in the present study.1 Limitations of our work include misclassification of participants if behaviors changed after survey II and survivor bias whereby more healthy participants survived until the resurvey and were included, which may have underestimated associations. These observational data do not provide evidence of causality.

James White

Centre for Trials Research

College of Biomedical and Life Sciences

Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public

Health Improvement (DECIPHer)

College of Biomedical and Life Sciences

Cardiff University

Wales, United Kingdom

Mika Kivimäki

G. David Batty

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health

University College London

London, United Kingdom

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1. Batty GD, Shipley MJ, Kivimaki M, et alImpact of smoking cessation advice on future smoking behavior, morbidity, and mortality: up to 40 years of follow-up of the first randomized controlled trial of a general population sample. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171:1950–1951.
2. Byberg L, Melhus H, Gedeborg R, et alTotal mortality after changes in leisure time physical activity in 50 year old men: 35 year follow-up of population based cohort. BMJ. 2009;338:b688.
3. Buil-Cosiales P, Zazpe I, Toledo E, et alFiber intake and all-cause mortality in the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED) study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100:1498–1507.
4. Grønbaek M, Johansen D, Becker U, et alChanges in alcohol intake and mortality: a longitudinal population-based study. Epidemiology. 2004;15:222–228.
5. Aubin HJ, Farley A, Lycett D, et alWeight gain in smokers after quitting cigarettes: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012;345:e4439.
6. Melanson EL, Keadle SK, Donnelly JE, et alResistance to exercise-induced weight loss: compensatory behavioral adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45:1600–1609.

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