Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 10:03 AM EDT

Loved Ones Can Be the Key to Losing Weight or Quitting Smoking

Jan 23, 2015 12:11 AM EST

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Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking knows just how hard it can be.  Though a new study suggests that if you want to quit smoking, lose weight, or just change an annoying habit, getting help from someone you love could be the key to success.

According to the new study, published in the medical journal JAMA: Internal Medicine, creating positive change with someone makes the chances that you will be successful much higher.

Researchers from the University College in London found that people who try to effect positive behavior changes in their lives, such as quitting smoking or losing weight, are more likely to succeed with their new goals if they make the change with their spouse.  In fact, couples working together are far more likely to be successful compared to someone going about the change alone.

For example, men who try to quit smoking while their spouse continues to smoke only have an 8 percent chance of success if they go it alone, compared to a 50 percent chance for success if they quit along with their spouse.

The numbers are identical for women as well, with 8 percent being able to successfully quit smoking on their own versus 50 percent of women being successful at quitting when their partners also quit with them.

When it came to weight loss, only 15 percent of women are able to stick to a weight loss regime and actually lose weight if they are doing it by themselves.  However 36 percent of women who try and shed a few pounds are able to if their spouse is following the same regime with them.  For men, 10 percent are able to lose weight on their own, but 26 percent are successful and dropping a few pants sizes if their partner or spouse is doing it with them.

What if your partner doesn't smoke or need to lose weight?  Your chances of success are still higher than someone entirely alone, but not as high as someone whose partner is also trying to make the same positive change.

To arrive at these conclusions, researchers examined data from 3,722 married couples and couples who co-habitate, all over the age of 50.  The looked at physical activity, smoking and obesity, and found that changing these habits with a partner was more likely to result in success compared to people trying on their own.

"Having someone who is with you day and night encouraging you and supporting you, this truly is a powerful result," the lead author of the study, Jane Wardle says.

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