The role of healthy lifestyle in the implementation of regressing suboptimal health status among college students in China: A nested case-control study

Jieyu Chen, Hongjie Xiang, Pingping Jiang, Lin Yu, Yuan Jing, Fei Li, Shengwei Wu, Xiuqiong FU, Yanyan Liu, Hiu Yee KWAN, Ren Luo, Xiaoshan Zhao*, Xiaomin Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Suboptimal health status (SHS) is the intermediate health state between health and disease, it is medically undiagnosed and is also termed functional somatic syndrome. Although its clinical manifestations are complicated and various, SHS has not reached the disease status. Unhealthy lifestyle is associated with many chronic diseases and mortality. In accordance with the impact of lifestyle on health, it is intriguing to determine the association between unhealthy lifestyle and SHS risk. Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study among healthy Chinese college students from March 2012 to September 2013, which was nested in a prospective cohort of 5676 students. We performed 1:1 incidence density sampling with matched controls for birth year, sex, grade, specialty and individual character. SHS was evaluated using the medical examination report and Sub-health Measurement Scale V1.0 (SHMS V1.0). Exposure was defined as an unhealthy lifestyle per the frequency of six behavioral dimensions from the Health-promoting Lifestyle Profile (HPLP-II). Results: We matched 543 cases of SHS (42.66%) in a cohort of 1273 students during the 1.5 years mean follow-up time with controls. A significant difference (t = 9.79, p < 0.001) and a reduction in HPLP-II total score was present at 1.5 years follow-up (135.93 ± 17.65) compared to baseline (144.48 ± 18.66). A level-response effect was recorded with an increase of the total HPLP-II (every dimension was correlated with a decreased SHS risk). Compared to respondents with the least exposure (excellent level), those reporting a general HPLP-II level were approximately 2.3 times more likely to develop SHS (odd ratio = 2.333, 95% CI = 1.471 to 3.700); and those with less HPLP-II level (good level) were approximately 1.6 times more likely (1.644, 1.119–2.414) to develop SHS (p < 0.05). Our data indicated that unhealthy lifestyle behavior with respect to behavioral dimensions significantly affected SHS likelihood. Further analyses revealed a marked increase (average increased 14.73 points) in lifestyle level among those SHS regression to health after 1.5 years, with respect to the HPLP-II behavioral dimensions, in addition to the total score (t = −15.34, p < 0.001). Conclusions: SHS is highly attributable to unhealthy lifestyles, and the mitigation of modifiable lifestyle risk factors may lead to SHS regression. Increased efforts to modify unhealthy lifestyles are necessary to prevent SHS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number240
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Health-promoting
  • Nested case-control
  • SHS regression
  • Suboptimal health status (SHS)
  • Unhealthy lifestyle


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