Investigators from the Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston compared the results of two large-scale studies of the US population in 1988-1994 and in 2001-2006. In the intervening 18 years, the percentage of adults aged 40-74 years with a body mass index greater than 30 has increased from 28% to 36%; physical activity 12 times a month or more has decreased from 53% to 43%; smoking rates have not changed (26.9% to 26.1%); eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables a day has decreased from 42% to 26%; and moderate alcohol use has increased from 40% to 51%. The number of people adhering to all 5 healthy habits has decreased from 15% to 8%.
Writing in the article, Dana E. King, MD, MS, states, "The potential public health benefits from promoting a healthier lifestyle at all ages, and especially ages 40-74 years, are substantial. Regular physical activity and a prudent diet can reduce the risk of premature death and disability from a variety of conditions including coronary heart disease, and are strongly related to the incidence of obesity. In the US, medical costs due to physical inactivity and its consequences are estimated at $76 billion in 2000 dollars. Research indicates that individuals are capable of adopting healthy habits in middle age, and making an impact on cardiovascular risk."
Steve - for public health professionals, these numbers could not be any more demoralizing. However, we can confidently say that the majority of our client network is bucking the trend. That said, our clients follow lifestyle ideals that are not the norm in the U.S. Drastic measures that "go against the mainstream" need to become "the mainstream" for positive lifestyle influences to trend upward. More on this to come.