A healthy preconception lifestyle, consisting of multiple health behaviors, is crucial for preventing adverse health outcomes in mothers and offspring. Although knowledge about the pattern of inter-behavior relations may provide insights for nudging multiple health behavior changes, this has not been adequately explored in the existing literature. Adopting a network perspective, the present study conceptualized multiple health behaviors as a behavior network (i.e., behaviors as nodes, inter-behavior relations as edges) and utilized network analysis to investigate the pattern of interrelations of preconception health behaviors in a large sample of Chinese women.
We used the data of a population-based cohort study in China to estimate the behavior network. An analytic sample included 41,127 Chinese women who were surveyed about their adoptions of multiple health behaviors during the preconception period.
Network analysis revealed a relatively dense behavior network and visualized the network structure of multiple preconception health behaviors. Subsequent centrality analysis identified three central behaviors (i.e., avoiding second- or third-hand smoke, reducing psychosocial stress, and reducing alcohol) that had distinctively stronger connections to other behaviors.
Preconception health behaviors were strongly interconnected, and certain behaviors had stronger influences than others within the behavior network. Our findings highlight the strong inter-relatedness of preconception health behaviors. This study also encourages targeting the three central behaviors in preconception lifestyle promotions because this may bring more secondary improvements on other non-targeted behaviors and thereby achieve comprehensive lifestyle change.