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OBJECTIVE:This research examined if childhood health motivation was associated with adult health behaviors and objectively measured health outcomes. METHOD:Data were from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study. Children aged 9 to 15 years in 1985 completed a questionnaire with health motivation items. In 2004-2006, when aged 26 to 36, participants completed assessments of health behaviors (smoking, diet, alcohol consumption, and physical activity) and cardiometabolic outcomes (body mass index, carotid intima-media thickness from ultrasound, and HOMA insulin resistance from fasting blood samples). Structural path regression analyses examined pathways from health motivation in childhood to adult cardiometabolic outcomes, mediated via adult health behaviors measured concurrently, controlling for age, sex and socioeconomic position. RESULTS:There were 6,230 (49% female) children with data on health motivation. There were two latent constructs: health motivation (4 items: visiting a dentist, visiting a doctor, knowing about your body, and eating a good diet) and risk motivation (3 items: not being a smoker, not being fat, and not drinking alcohol). Greater health motivation was directly associated with nonsmoking, lower carotid intima-media thickness, and lower body mass index in adulthood. Greater risk motivation was directly associated with smoking, higher alcohol consumption, and poorer diets in adulthood. It was also indirectly associated with higher carotid intima-media thickness and higher HOMA insulin resistance via poorer health behaviors. CONCLUSIONS:Health motivation during childhood appears important to maintain health across the life course. It could be a target for interventions to improve cardiovascular health in children and adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Original publication




Journal article


Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association

Publication Date





297 - 305


Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania.


Humans, Cardiovascular Diseases, Risk Factors, Motivation, Adolescent, Adult, Child, Female, Male