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Jan 23, 2015 12:39 AM EST

Healthier Habits May Be Easier to Adopt As A Couple

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New research suggests that people are more successful in taking up healthy habits if their partner makes positive changes too.

Scientists at the University College London found that people were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well.

"Unhealthy lifestyles are a leading cause of death from chronic disease worldwide. The key lifestyle risks are smoking, excess weight, physical inactivity, poor diet, and alcohol consumption. Swapping bad habits for good ones can reduce the risk of disease, including cancer," Jane Wardle, one of the study authors, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers collected data from nearly 4,000 couples either married or living together and over the age of 50, who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Researchers looked at how likely people were to quit smoking, start being active, or lose weight in relation to what their partner did.

Among the women who smoked, 50 percent managed to quit if their partner gave up smoking too at the same time, compared with 17 percent of women whose partners were already non-smokers, and eight per cent of those whose partners were regular smokers.

The study found that men were equally affected by their partners and were more likely to quit smoking, get active, or lose weight if their partner made the same behavior change.

"Making lifestyle changes can make a big difference to our health and cancer risk. And this study shows that when couples make those changes together they are more likely to succeed," researcher Julie Sharp said in a statement. "Getting some support can help people take up good habits."

The finding are detailed in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

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