The study tracked 4,886 British adults over a 20-year period.
This is not exactly hot news, that smoking, drinking to excess, not getting exercise and not eating properly will increase your risk for a variety of health problems. But the new research, conducted by Elisabeth Kvaavik of the University of Oslo, studied the four "bad habits" as a combined health threat.
Of the almost 5,000 people followed in the study, only 314 people had all four unhealthy habits and only 387 people had none of the four.
Four Bad Habits
For the study, the researchers defined the four risky behaviors as:
- Any Tobacco Smoking - Smoking cigarettes, cigars or a pipe.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption - More than three drinks a day (two for women).
- Sedentary Lifestyle - Less than two hours of physical activity per week.
- Poor Diet - Eating less than three servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
"These habits combined substantially increased the risk of death and made people who engaged in them seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group," said Kvaavik.
Reversing The Trend
The researchers said that reversing these health risks does not require extreme measures. Those who got at least two hours of physical activity per week and those who ate fruits and vegetables at least three times a day, were among the healthiest group in the study.
The problem for alcoholics is that research shows that most of them also smoke, many suffer from not eating a proper diet and exhibit a sedentary lifestyle, according to previous research.
Even many alcoholics who have quit drinking still continue to smoke and many fail to get enough exercise and eat healthy diets. That's the reason that many alcohol and drug rehab programs include education about exercise and nutrition in their long-term treatment plans.
It's another example that getting sober is only the beginning for alcoholics to return to a healthy lifestyle. True recovery includes many stages.
The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, April 26, 2010.