Variation in lifestyle and differences in health behaviours appear to be important influences on the physical function of older people. We have recently reported large differences in the prevalence of poor physical function (self-reported (SF36) and objective measurements) according to the participants’ number of lifestyle risk factors, out of: (i) being physically inactive, (ii) having a poor quality diet (healthy diet score in lowest quarter of distribution), (iii) being obese (BMI ≥30kg/m2), or (iv) a current smoker (see figure ). This translates into a four-fold difference in odds of poor self-reported physical function among men who had at least three risk factors (in comparison with none) and an eight-fold difference in women.776 12

As lifestyle risk factors are modifiable, there may be opportunities for behaviour change interventions to promote better function and to contribute to healthier ageing. Understanding the determinants of variation in lifestyle in older age is therefore a priority for the design of effective strategies to support older adults to achieve lifestyle change. This is a key part of our current research and future research plans.

In partnership with the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre we are using qualitative methods to explore psychosocial11 13,352 14and early life influences775 15 on diet and other health behaviours to inform the design of future intervention studies.