Many public health recommendations and clinical guidelines emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyles. Recent epidemiologic studies demonstrate that following a healthy lifestyle has substantial health benefits. The objectives of this study were to report on the prevalence of healthy lifestyle characteristics (HLCs) and to generate a single indicator of a healthy lifestyle.
National data for the year 2000 were obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which consists of annual, statewide, random digit–dialed household telephone surveys. We defined the following 4 HLCs: nonsmoking, healthy weight (body mass index [calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters] of 18.5-25.0), consuming 5 or more fruits and vegetables per day, and regular physical activity (≥30 minutes for ≥5 times per week). The 4 HLCs were summed to create a healthy lifestyle index (range, 0-4), and the pattern of following all 4 HLCs was defined as a single healthy lifestyle indicator. We report prevalences of each HLC and the indicator by major demographic subgroups.
By using data from more than 153 000 adults, the prevalence (95% confidence interval) of the individual HLCs was as follows: nonsmoking, 76.0% (75.6%-76.4%); healthy weight, 40.1% (39.7%-40.5%); 5 fruits and vegetables per day, 23.3% (22.9%-23.7%); and regular physical activity, 22.2% (21.8%-22.6%). The overall prevalence of the healthy lifestyle indicator (ie, having all 4 HLCs) was only 3.0% (95% confidence interval, 2.8%-3.2%), with little variation among subgroups (range, 0.8%-5.7%).
These data illustrate that a healthy lifestyle—defined as a combination of 4 HLCs—was undertaken by very few adults in the United States, and that no subgroup followed this combination to a level remotely consistent with clinical or public health recommendations.