Health and Lifestyles

Health and Lifestyles

Health and Lifestyles

Health and Lifestyles

Synopsis

What is a 'healthy' lifestyle? Which is more significant: the social circumstances in which people live, or lifestyle habits such as exercise or smoking?
Health and Lifestylesis the first description of a large and representative survey of the British population asking just those questions. It examines the findings, and considers issues such as measured fitness, declared health, psychological status, life circumstances, health-related behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. Providing firm evidence of the importance of social circumstances and patterns of health-related behaviour, Health and Lifestylesis an important contribution to current debate, revealing the levels of inequality in health in Britain today.

Excerpt

At the individual level, ill health may often seem to strike randomly. At the level of populations, however, it is well known that circumstances and ways of living are closely associated with health: poverty or prosperity, an urban or a rural environment, work and unemployment, stress and contentment-all these have an influence upon health. What fosters a 'healthy' lifestyle? How much responsibility does the individual have for his or her own health? These questions are currently at the forefront of public attention. Certain behaviour patterns are thought to be crucially related to the major diseases which are now prominent in advanced societies. More generally, interest has grown in the positive aspects of health and in health promotion. This movement is tied to rising public expectations of better health (WHO 1984). The ways in which the different factors which influence health interact are complex, however, and the relative importance of different aspects of life is not easy to gauge.

In 1984/5 a large national survey of the population of England, Wales and Scotland, the Health and Lifestyle Survey, was carried out. In it, people were asked in great detail about their health and their lifestyles, certain aspects of their fitness were measured, and they were invited to express their opinions and attitudes towards health and health-related behaviour. Because so many aspects of life are included about the same individuals, the opportunity arises to look in a very general way at the relationship between attitudes, circumstances, behaviour and health.

This volume attempts, first, to assess what 'health' means to people, and how it is distributed in the population. Then, the

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