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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Good and Bad Health Habits in U.S.

6 in 10 Americans Drink Regularly, but only 3 in 10 Get Regular Exercise
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 16, 2010 -- Regular drinkers outnumber regular exercisers, says a new report on health behaviors in the U.S.

The CDC study shows that six in 10 American adults were regular drinkers in 2005-2007, but only about three in 10 regularly exercised.

The report details a range of good and bad health habits among American adults, including alcohol use, cigarette smoking, exercise, body weight, and sleep.

Overall, researchers say that since 1997, rates of cigarette smoking have declined by several percentage points, rates of obesity have climbed, and rates of alcohol use, exercise, and sleep have remained relatively unchanged.

The results are based on survey data collected from 79,096 interviews with U.S. adults between 2005-2007 and highlight differences between various gender, ethnic, and social groups when it comes to health behaviors.

Alcohol Use

  • Men were more likely than women to be drinkers (68% vs. 55%), and women were more likely than men to abstain from alcohol (31% vs. 18%).
  • White people were more likely than African-Americans, Asians, Native Americans, or Alaska Natives to be drinkers.
  • The more educated people were, the more likely they were to drink. Seventy-four percent of people interviewed who have a graduate degree were drinkers, compared with 44% of people with a high school diploma.

Cigarette Smoking

  • One in five adults were smokers, and more than half (58.5%) had never smoked cigarettes.
  • Four in 10 smokers tried to quit smoking in the last year.
  • People who hold a GED were more likely than non-high school graduates and high school graduates to be smokers.


  • About six in 10 adults engaged in at least some leisure-time physical activity, and about three in 10 regularly engaged in some physical activity.
  • Adults with higher levels of education were less likely to be smokers, be physically inactive, and be obese and to sleep six hours or less per night.
  • Men were more likely than women to be physically active.

Body Weight

  • Six in 10 adults were obese or overweight.
  • Four in 10 adults were a healthy weight.
  • Men were more likely to be overweight (67.9% vs. 53%), but men and women were equally likely to be obese (25.7% vs. 25.0%).


  • Six in 10 adults usually slept 7 to 8 hours in a 24-hour period.
  • Three in 10 adults averaged 6 hours of sleep or fewer per night.
  • Men aged 25-44 were more likely than women to sleep 6 hours or fewer, but women aged 65 and older were more likely than men to sleep fewer than 6 hours.

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