Lester Breslow

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 19 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4226
  1. Ned Stafford, freelance journalist, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Proved that seven habits make for a healthier life

Lester Breslow could hardly believe the data when he reviewed his landmark 1965 survey of adults.1 2 He had expected the study to confirm the benefits of his “seven healthy habits,” but “these findings were so striking,” he noted in his autobiography, A Life in Public Health: An Insider’s Retrospective, “that when my colleagues presented them to me I thought they were playing some prank.”

Seven healthy habits

The seven habits were moderate alcohol consumption, no tobacco smoking, regular exercise, seven to eight hours of sleep a day, regular meals with no snacking, maintenance of moderate body weight, and regular consumption of breakfast. Breslow’s findings proved scientifically for the first time that people with most of these habits are substantially healthier than those with few.

Walter Holland, emeritus professor of public health medicine at the London School of Economics and Political Science, sees the study as Breslow’s most important accomplishment during a nearly 70 year career as “one of public health’s greats.” Professor Holland, a …

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