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BACKGROUND: Previous studies have reported weak relationships between health beliefs and behavior change; few studied elderly populations.

METHODS: We examined the relation between self-reported behavior change and health-related beliefs among an educated, upper-middle-class population age 50 to 89 years.

RESULTS: More women reported decreasing dietary salt and fat, changing diet, and reading self-help materials than men. Younger respondents (age 50 to 69 years) reported more positive health behavior changes in diet and exercise than did older respondents (age 70 to 89 years). Respondents who agreed that diet and exercise were important for optimal health and/or spent money on healthful items reported more positive behavior change than those who disagreed. Those who reported confusion about how to stay healthy or a lack of motivation to engage in healthful behaviors were less likely to make positive lifestyle changes. Older respondents reported a higher rate of confusion regarding which foods to eat (53% vs 39%)and how to stay healthy (29% vs 19%) than younger respondents, while younger respondents were more likely to report a problem with motivation (40% vs 34%).

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that increasing age does not diminish the relation between health beliefs and health behaviors. Health promotion campaigns aimed at older adults should strive to reduce confusion to improve health behavior.

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Q: What is the relationship between health beliefs and health and health behavior?
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