Background Promoting healthier lifestyles is at the heart of England’s public health strategy. The dominant focus has been on single health behaviours; however, most adults engage in multiple risk behaviours. Very few studies have investigated patterns among parents and children. This paper focuses on four health behaviours among mothers; part of a broader project examining multiple risk behaviours among parents and children.
Methods Data from the Health Survey for England (years 2006 and 2008) identified 4,218 mothers living with children under the age of 16. Latent Class Analysis classified mothers into groups with differing combinations of cigarette smoking, alcohol, fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity engagement. Logistic regression identified the characteristics associated with membership of each group.
Results Six mutually exclusive groups of mothers were identified. The first (31% of mothers) had average fruit, vegetable and alcohol consumption, average physical activity engagement and were non-smokers. This group had higher income levels than other mothers. The second group had lower levels of alcohol consumption, were non-smokers with lower physical activity levels. They were from lower income groups. The third group drank alcohol most regularly, were cigarette smokers and had lower physical activity engagement and fruit and vegetable consumption. These women were more likely to be single and to be in employment. The fourth group were frequent consumers of alcohol but had high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption and higher engagement in physical activity. They had higher levels of educational attainment than other mothers. The fifth group were either ex or current smokers, infrequent drinkers, average engagers in sports physical activity but had higher fruit and vegetable consumption. They were more likely to live in rented accommodation. The sixth group were current cigarette smokers with lower physical activity engagement, lower fruit and vegetable consumption and were infrequent drinkers. A higher proportion of this group lived in more deprived areas.
Discussion This analysis shows for the first time for mothers in England, how risk behaviours cluster and the differential social patterning associated with the clusters. It indicates how targeted interventions aimed at different ‘risk’ groups may be appropriate. These implications will be discussed.