There is strong evidence to support the link between lifestyle and health. Research has demonstrated how ‘maintaining healthy behaviours throughout the life-course particularly eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity and refraining from tobacco use all contribute to reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases and improving physical and mental capacity.
The importance of continued social engagement is also strongly associated with health. As early as 1998 Glass demonstrated the correlation between occupation and health in older people. The research highlighted that participation in activities to promote social engagement was strongly associated with survival, supporting the notion that this aspect is at least of equal importance to physical exercise. More recently a systematic review of health promoting interventions to promote mental wellbeing among older adults found that pooled results from 44 trials demonstrated impact upon quality of life and reduction of depression and identified the value of maintaining meaningful and tailored social activities.
When placed in the context of compression morbidity this evidence assumes additional significance. Fries in 1980 postulated that even though life expectancy will inevitably have an upper limit the onset of illness and disability can be delayed and thus the length of time spent experiencing chronic ill health will reduce. If people can be supported to live well for longer the onset of chronic infirmity can potentially be postponed. A subsequent study (Vita et al 1998) supported Fries hypothesis. As global ageing gathers apace approaches that seek to promote health and prevent the onset of disease assume a growing importance for global health policy.