The lifestyles of your parents can affect your health

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Are you used to drinking and smoking in front of your children? Beware of it, because when your children grow older they may be passed on the same habits.

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Nobody holds the power to choose parents, their work, or their wellbeing. Neither have any say in whether they smoke or not, what they must eat (unless it’s important). Recent research, however, found that these issues decide strongly our lifestyles and wellbeing, even in adulthood.

The study provides an example whereby the child was much more likely to smoke as an adult if a parent smoked while their child was young. The report, published in Conversation’s non-profit media outlet, said the children are influenced by their parents through two separate mechanisms:

  • Firstly, poor childhood living conditions contribute to hardship in adulthood and
  • Secondly, health is transmitted from parents to kids.

This also raises the risk of diseases in their later life, and numerous negative health-related outcomes, particularly obesity resulting from alcohol abuse.

Researchers at the University of Leeds, England, surveyed over 21,000 people, aged 50 and over. During the participants’ childhood the team compared the participants’ current smoking habits, obesity, and lack of exercise with their parent’s job, fitness, smoking status, and alcohol problems.

The results showed that parents’ health often influences their children’s health by imparting habits and lifestyles, beyond the obvious common genetic inheritance over generations.

When a person’s father smoked when they were twelve, it was found that they were almost twice as likely to smoke as people whose father never smoke at all.

When mothers smoked, the impact of smoking was more on their daughters rather their sons. Also, the risk of a person smoking was higher among those whose father was a manual worker or who have faced periods of poverty during their childhood.

Why is it important?

Our findings will give those who planned the latest NHS proposals to stop smokers or obese patients from getting surgery unless they quit smoking or lose weight, pause for thought.

The decision assumes that the poor health of these patients is self-induced, and they have to choose between facing the effects of their lifestyle or demonstrating a willingness to improve.

One way to ensure equal opportunity is, according to the American economist, John Roemer, people will be responsible only for that share which is not linked to their parents’ choices or childhood conditions.

Winding up

The research indicates that the influence of individuals over their health choices and health status is limited. It can be even without making this distinction between responsibility and true responsibility. However, in most European countries, the circumstances of family and parents matter most.