Multiple health behaviours among mothers and partners in England: clustering, social patterning and intra-couple concordance

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

SSM - Population Health


Hilary Graham, Jayne Hutchinson, Catherine Law, Lucinda Platt and Heather Wardle

Publication date


Research on multiple health behaviours is increasing but little is known about parental behaviours and how they covary. Our study investigates cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption and physical activity among mothers and co-resident partners in England. Using the UK Household Longitudinal Study, we examined (i) clustering of health behaviours using observed-expected ratios and latent class analysis (ii) socio-demographic correlates of the derived latent classes and (iii) intra-couple concordance of individual health behaviours and their latent classes. We identified five latent classes for mothers and partners: Never smoked drinkers (28% of mothers; 29% of partners), Abstainers (25%; 17%), Drinkers and ex-smokers (19%; 26%), Unhealthy low frequency drinkers (18%; 16%) and Unhealthiest behaviour group (11%; 12%). These had distinctive social profiles. Never smoked drinkers were more likely than those in other groups to be white and socially advantaged: married, older, and with higher educational qualifications and incomes. Abstainers were non-smokers who never or occasionally drank, and were disproportionately drawn from ethnic minority groups and middle/lower income families. Drinkers and ex-smokers were the most physically active group and were more likely to be socially advantaged. Unhealthy low frequency drinkers were more likely to be disadvantaged and have a limiting long-standing illness. The Unhealthiest behaviour group had the highest proportion of smokers, heavy smokers and binge drinkers and the lowest F&V intake and physical activity levels. They were largely white and socially disadvantaged: younger, non-married and with lower educational levels. Mothers and their partners typically shared the same risk behaviours, and 44 per cent of partners and mothers belonged to the same latent class. Our findings point to the potential for a broadening of research and policy perspectives, from separate behaviours to combinations of behaviours, and from individuals to the domestic units and communities of which they are part.

Volume and page numbers

2, 824-833





Drug/Alcohol Abuse, Social Groups, Demography, Family Formation And Dissolution, Health, Social Behaviour and Sociology Of Households


Open Access; Open Access funded by Department of Health UK; Under a Creative Commons license