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

Abstract

Background

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

Purpose

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.

Method

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).

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council, UK. Jane Wardle is supported by Cancer Research UK and Andrew Steptoe by the British Heart Foundation. We acknowledge collaborators in universities worldwide who recruited students to take part in this survey.

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Correspondence to Andrew Steptoe.

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Grant, N., Wardle, J. & Steptoe, A. The Relationship Between Life Satisfaction and Health Behavior: A Cross-cultural Analysis of Young Adults. Int.J. Behav. Med. 16, 259–268 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-009-9032-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-009-9032-x

Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • International
  • Smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Health behavior
  • Health beliefs