Credit: Nick Kulas

For the first time in the world, a study has examined how good habits have a multiplying effect on mortality in Asian women. The study results are that smoking husbands are shortening their wives' lives. Other results of the study include that Chinese women with plenty of healthy habits tend to live longer than their friends with less healthy lifestyles.

The researchers from Vanderbilt University in the United States used the notes from the Shanghai Women's Health Study. The researchers studied between 1996 and 2000 more than 71,000 non-smoking, non-drinking Chinese women aged 40-70 years. The report was based on five factors - weight, waist-to-hip ratio, regular exercise by the woman, whether she is exposed to second-hand smoke, and fruit and vegetable intake. These five factors are associated with mortality.

The women were under study for around nine years. In this span, 2,860 of them died, 1,351 of cancer and 775 of heart disease. The study by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) found that the deceased women were more underweight, overweight or obese, had higher waist-to-hip ratios than survivors.

According to the study many of these factors can be improved by motivation of the individuals to change unhealthy behaviors. For example, an easy alternative for women in China or elsewhere in Asia to increase energy release is by going for a walk daily or doing exercise regularly with a group, and to eat more fruit and vegetables.

But the deceased women also had a spouse who smoked, and that was difficult to handle. According to the study, women living in China and other Asian countries are particularly exposed to tobacco smoke. This is due to the high smoking prevalence among Asian men. However, for the husbands to completely stop smoking, interventions from the community and social change is required. It also said that to minimize the exposure, awareness among the people about the harmful effect of smoking on health is necessary.

By focusing on Chinese and not Western women the study is different from the few studies that have reported the impact of lifestyle factors on mortality. The study also said that such studies have mostly been conducted in the U.S. and Western Europe where women's lifestyles are much different from Chinese women. Such studies in the West have included women who smoked and drank alcohol. But these habits are not maintained by many Asian women.