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The Gerontologist 44:193-205 (2004)
© 2004 The Gerontological Society of America

Health Behaviors in a Representative Sample of Older Canadians: Prevalences, Reported Change, Motivation to Change, and Perceived Barriers

Jason T. Newsom, PhD1,, Mark S. Kaplan, DrPH1, Nathalie Huguet, MA1 and Bentson H. McFarland, MD, PhD2

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Jason T. Newsom, PhD, Institute on Aging, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751. E-mail: newsomj{at}

Purpose: Prevalence estimates of healthy behaviors and preventive care among older adults have not received sufficient attention, despite important health benefits such as longevity and better quality of life. Moreover, little is known about general population prevalences of older adults' efforts to change behavior, motivations to improve health behaviors, and perceived barriers to change. Design and Methods: This study estimates the prevalence of a wide range of health behaviors and preventive-care activities, self-reported behavior change, and perceived barriers to change in a 1996–1997 population-based survey of 17,354 Canadian adults aged 60 and older. Results: The findings indicate that a substantial proportion of older adults lead relatively inactive lives and often fall short of recommended standards for preventive health-care visits and screening tests. Moreover, nearly two thirds (63.2%) of older adults reported no efforts in the prior year to make changes to improve their health, and similar numbers (66.7%) indicated they thought no changes were needed. Differences in prevalences were found by gender, age, and education. Implications: Results from this study are useful for policy makers who need to prioritize public health efforts, researchers studying interventions, and health professionals developing preventive-care guidelines.

Key Words: Health behaviors • Preventive care • Public health

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Copyright © 2004 by The Gerontological Society of America.