(HealthDay News) —  For people age 50 years and older, having a favorable behavioral profile is associated with increased life expectancy and delayed onset of disability compared with the whole US population, according to a study published online in Health Affairs.

Neil Mehta, PhD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Mikko Myrskylä, PhD, from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, examined the extent to which risky behaviors (such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption) are responsible for reducing the health and life expectancy of the US population. The authors obtained data from the Health and Retirement Study for people aged 50 years or older who had never smoked, were not obese, and had moderate alcohol consumption.

The researchers found that individuals with such a favorable behavior profile had a life expectancy at age 50 years that was 7 years longer compared with the whole US population; they also experienced a delay of up to 6 years in the onset of disability.

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“These results provide a benchmark for evaluating the massively damaging effects that behavioral risks have on health at older ages and the importance of prioritizing policies to implement behavioral-based interventions,” the authors write.

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  1. Mehta N, Myrskylä M. The Population Health Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle: Life Expectancy Increased And Onset Of Disability Delayed. Health Aff (Millwood). 19 July 2017. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1569