Although behaviours regarded as unhealthy are widespread, behaving in an unhealthy manner in several respects is relatively uncommon. However, people with multiple unhealthy behaviours exist and their number is larger than expected if the behaviours were not related to each other. The aim of this study was to examine sociodemographic determinants of multiple unhealthy behaviours, with special reference to independent and combined effects of the determinants.
Data on unhealthy behaviours were derived from nationwide surveys among Finnish adults. The mean number of unhealthy behaviours practised on a daily basis and the probability of reporting three or four of these behaviours was examined across sociodemographic groups.
Age, educational level and marital status predicted reporting of three or four unhealthy behaviours. Interactions were observed between education and age in both genders as well as between marital status and age in men and educational level and living area in women. Mean numbers of unhealthy behaviours showed similar patterns to having three or four unhealthy behaviours but few differences between the means were statistically significant and there were no interactions.
The influence of each sociodemographic determinant on multiple unhealthy behaviours was relatively independent from the other sociodemographic determinants. As the effect of these determinants tends to be cumulative, engaging in multiple unhealthy behaviours is common in population subgroups with several unfavourable characteristics. In health promotion initiatives special attention should be paid to such population groups and their social circumstances.