Health Behaviors of Adults

NCHS has put out a new report that presents selected prevalence estimates for five key health behaviors among adults — alcohol use, cigarette smoking, leisure-time physical activity, body mass index, and sufficient sleep.  The report is based on a total of 76,669 completed interviews with a sample of adults aged 18 and over covering the period 2008-2010.

This photograph depicts a male bicyclist.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • About 6 in 10 (64.9%) U.S. adults were current drinkers in 2008–2010; about 1 in 5 adults (20.9%) were lifetime abstainers.
  • About one in five adults (20.2%) were current smokers and over one-half of adults (58.6%) had never smoked cigarettes. Less than one-half of current smokers (45.8%) attempted to quit smoking in the past year.
  • Nearly one-half (46.1%) of adults met the federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity, about one-quarter (23.0%) of adults met the federal guidelines for muscle-strengthening physical activity, and about one in five adults (19.4%) met both guidelines.
  • About 6 in 10 adults (62.1%) were overweight or obese (BMI ≥ 25), with about 4 in 10 (36.1%) adults being of healthy weight (18.5 ≤ BMI < 25).
  • About 7 in 10 adults (69.7%) met the Healthy People 2020 objective for sufficient sleep, defined as at least 8 hours for adults aged 18–21 and at least 7 hours for adults aged 22 and over on
    average during a 24-hour period.


Data representing the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population were collected using computer-assisted personal interviews. NHIS is a general purpose in-person household survey, collecting basic health, health care utilization, and demographic information on all household members with the Family questionnaire. Health behavior questions are asked in the Sample Adult survey component.

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