University of Gothenburg
A cyclist riding on a road
Many diseases can be prevented with more healthy lifestyle habits.
Photo: Sahlgrenska Universitetssjukhuset

Lifestyle makes a difference

Lifestyle-related ill-health is increasing. Sedentary habits, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and high levels of alcohol consumption are some of the reasons why more and more Swedes risk developing lifestyle-related illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, type-2 diabetes and chronic pulmonary diseases.

Less equitable health

In general, the health of the population is improving, but there are vast differences between groups and these differences have increased over the last decades. In Gothenburg alone, the average lifespan can different by 10 years, depending on which neighbourhood you live in. The Corona pandemic clearly highlighted the consequences of differences in lifestyles, where obesity, smoking and diminished physical condition are closely associated with serious COVID and death.

Creating more equitable health is an important sustainability goal, both in Agenda 2030 (In Swedish) and in the global sustainability goals. (In Swedish) Reducing these health inequalities requires influencing lifestyles.

Better prevention efforts are needed

The health of the population should be both good and equitable. This means that everyone should have the same opportunities for good health. Achieving this requires good prevention that avoids the occurrence of disease. Prevention consists of two aspects. Primary prevention is to prevent disease from occurring. Secondary prevention implies early discovery and treatment of ill-health.

Primary prevention is a shared responsibility among many groups in society. The health and medical care system bears full responsibility for secondary prevention. The Patient Act states that individuals with unhealthy lifestyles have the right to receive information on their health status and on how they can change their unhealthy habits. Responses are to be designed and conducted in consultation with the patient to better allow the individual to have control over their own health. This work is to be closely integrated in the clinical organisation, in guidelines and in care programmes and is to be conducted with a long-term perspective. We have not achieved these goals yet.

How our research contributes

The Centre for Lifestyle Intervention develops new knowledge on personalised lifestyle changes. A better understanding of how to enable and sustain lifestyle changes over time can be an important contribution to more equitable health – for the benefit of patients. Our goal is also to provide the knowledge we develop to the health and medical care system to improve treatment and prevention of lifestyle diseases. Read more about our goals here

Facts about lifestyles

Most cardiovascular disease and a third of all cancers can be prevented with healthier lifestyles.

Individuals who do not smoke, who have a healthy diet, who are moderately active and who moderate their alcohol consumption live on average 14 years longer than those with unhealthy lifestyles.

Source: WHO