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Discordance between lifestyle-related health behaviors and beliefs of urban mainland Chinese: A questionnaire study with implications for targeting health education

1 School of Foreign Studies, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China, and formerly visiting scholar, School of Communication and Culture, Royal Roads University, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
2 School of Communication and Culture, Royal Roads University, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
3 Alice Jones, Discipline of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
4 School of Human Kinetics, Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada
5 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Background: Morbidity and mortality in China are increasingly associated with lifestyle behaviors, e.g., smoking, poor nutritional choices, and physical inactivity. Lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases (e.g., hypertension, stroke, heart disease, lung disease) are at critical levels globally, in turn their socioeconomic burdens. Knowledge of lifestyle-related health behaviors and beliefs of mainland Chinese would help inform the design and targeting of cost-effective health education for individuals and campaigns in the interests of promoting and protecting health, and preventing disease. This study’s objective was to describe the lifestyle behaviors and beliefs of a sample of urban mainland Chinese, and their congruence with evidence-based guidelines for maximal health. Methods: A cross-sectional interview questionnaire study was conducted in which 835 mainland Chinese (55% men, 45% women) from four urban areas participated. Results: About half (52%) reported smoking to some degree with 21% being habitual smokers; 33% being above average weight; 62.1% met physical activity guidelines for health benefits; 92% being sedentary for 5.8 ± 3.40 h/d; 66% experiencing moderate/high stress; and sleeping 7.1 ± 1.31 h nightly with 35% reporting sleeping poorly. When standard serving sizes were considered, daily consumption of grains, fruits, and vegetables was reported to be consistent with dietary recommendations for good health, however, added salt (3.7 ± 7.42 tsp) and sugar (3.9 ± 12.99 tsp) exceeded recommendations. Life stress was rated moderate by 59.6% of respondents, with personal and family health stresses ranking highest (43% and 55%, respectively). Regarding beliefs about importance of lifestyle behaviors to health, respondents’ understanding was not consistent with evidence-based recommendations. Only 64% of participants believed smoking abstinence is highly important to health; 56% regular exercise; and 37% consumption of whole grains, 62% fruit and vegetables; and 54% maintaining a healthy body weight. Conclusion: To be congruent with established guidelines for healthy living, health promotion and disease prevention education for individuals and public campaigns warrants targeting health knowledge and beliefs of urban Chinese as well as lifestyle-related health behaviors. The roles of gender, education and living rurally, on lifestyle behaviors and beliefs of the Chinese, warrant elucidation.
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Keywords health promotion education; lifestyle-related behaviors; lifestyle-related beliefs; mainland Chinese; non-communicable diseases

Citation: Peng Wang, Zhenyi Li, Alice Jones, Michael E. Bodner, Elizabeth Dean. Discordance between lifestyle-related health behaviors and beliefs of urban mainland Chinese: A questionnaire study with implications for targeting health education. AIMS Public Health , 2019, 6(1): 49-66. doi: 10.3934/publichealth.2019.1.49

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