The number of Americans that adhere to a healthy lifestyle has plummeted 46% in the last 20 years, according to scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Just 8% of adults between the ages of 40-74 practice all 5 of the following behaviors: exercising, eating fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.
That number was 15% in 1988, according to Dana King and colleagues, who published the distressing findings in the American Journal of Medicine.
“These findings should provide new motivation for an increasing commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles for the public good,” the researchers told MedPageToday.
To reach their conclusions, the scientists pulled data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which uses self-reported data on such behavior.
Over the 18 year study period, the percentage of adults classified as obese, which is to say having a BMI of 30 or above, rose from 28% to 36%.
The proportion adults that exercised at least 12 times per month dropped from 53% to 43% while those eating 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables dropped from a hard-to-believe 42% to 26%.
Smoking rates remained at 26.5%.
Non-Hispanic whites exhibited the steepest declines in overall healthy behaviors, and those with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes were not more likely than others to adhere to recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.
The scientists suggested that increased reliance on cars as well as changes in attitudes about the importance of diet and exercise might be driving the numbers.
Health care costs will surely continue upward and hard-earned gains in longevity will be reversed “if middle-aged adults do not increasingly adopt a healthy lifestyle as the primary approach to prevention and treatment of hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia,” they warned.