Health behaviors, obesity, and marital status among cancer survivors: a MEPS study

Lixin Song, Ting Guan, Peiran Guo, Xianming Tan, Ashley Leak Bryant, William A. Wood, Anthony D. Sung, Erin Elizabeth Kent, Thomas C. Keyserling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Promoting positive health behaviors helps improve cancer survivors' health outcomes during survivorship; however, little is known about whether health behaviors differ by marital status. The purpose is to examine whether health behaviors and obesity among cancer survivors vary by marital status and whether the type of cancer and sociodemographic factors influence the relationship.

Methods: We examined smoking, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI) among 1880 individuals diagnosed with prostate, breast, or colon cancer who were identified from the 2011-2017 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). We used Rao-Scott design-adjusted chi-square tests and weighted multivariable logistic regressions to achieve the research aims.

Results: Current smoking behavior and BMI were significantly related to marital status. Survivors who had never married were the most likely to be current smokers across all cancer types. Married survivors were the most likely to be overweight or obese, while widowed survivors were the most likely to have a normal weight. The relationship between BMI and marital status varied by cancer type. Widowed colon cancer survivors were least likely to be overweight or obese; divorced/separated colon cancer survivors were most likely to be obese or overweight. Health behavior disparities were found among cancer survivors of different age, sex, race, and levels of education and income.

Conclusions: There were relationships between marital status, health behaviors, and obesity among cancer survivors.

Implications for cancer survivors: Our results suggested that relationship status and sociodemographic factors need to be considered in tailoring interventions to promote health behaviors among cancer survivors.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
StatePublished - Nov 21 2022


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