International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 259-268

First online:

The Relationship Between Life Satisfaction and Health Behavior: A Cross-cultural Analysis of Young Adults

  • Nina GrantAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London
  • , Jane WardleAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London
  • , Andrew SteptoeAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Email author 

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Positive well-being has been associated with a range of favorable health outcomes. The contribution of health-promoting behaviors is unclear.


The purpose of the study was to assess the relationship between life satisfaction and seven health behaviors in young adults and investigate the consistency of associations across regions.


Students (17,246) aged 17–30 years from 21 countries completed questionnaire measures of life satisfaction, smoking, physical exercise, alcohol consumption, sun protection, fruit intake, fat consumption, and fiber intake. Three geopolitical regions were identified: Western Europe and the USA (12 countries), Central and Eastern Europe (five countries), and Pacific Asia (four countries).


Life satisfaction was positively associated with not smoking, physical exercise, using sun protection, eating fruit, and limiting fat intake, but was not related to alcohol consumption or fiber intake, after adjusting for age, gender, and data clustering. Results were consistent across regions for smoking and physical exercise, but differences were apparent for sun protection, fruit intake, and fat avoidance. Relationships between life satisfaction and health behaviors were independent of beliefs in the health benefits of behavior.


The association between life satisfaction and health-promoting behavior is likely to be bidirectional, but may partly account for the relationship between positive states and good health.


Life satisfaction International Smoking Physical activity Health behavior Health beliefs