Accessibility Options

Contact Information

Center for Disabilities Studies
University of Delaware
461 Wyoming Road
Newark DE 19716
Phone: 302-831-6974
TDD: 302-831-4689

Healthy Living

A healthy lifestyle is the combined result of lifestyle choices that every person makes.  Healthy lifestyles include being active, eating nutritious meals, and receiving regular, preventive medical check-ups. Lifestyle risk factors are voluntary behaviors that can either positively or negatively impact a person’s health.  For example, the choice to attend routine physical check-ups is a beneficial lifestyle habit that can help people live healthier lives. The decision to smoke, however, is a voluntary choice that has a negative effect on a person’s health.

  • Healthy Diet
  • Exercise and Physical Activity
  • Healthcare, Medical and Dental
  • Mental Health

Healthy Lifestyle and Disabilities

Having a disability does not mean someone is not healthy or cannot lead a healthy lifestyle. All people, including persons with disabilities, have the ability to make choices to live a healthy lifestyle.  However, for some people there are barriers that prevent them from participating in healthy lifestyle behaviors.  These barriers can include physical barriers, like inaccessible recreation facilities or exercise classes, or attitudinal barriers.  Attitudinal barriers can prevent individuals with disabilities from receiving adequate attention, advice, and care.

This report summarizes participation in lifestyle risk behaviors by adults in Delaware.  Data is broken down into adults with disabilities versus adults without disabilities to identify any evident disparities. For the full report of “Disability and Health in Delaware,” visit

Having a disability should not prevent an individual from making healthy lifestyle choices, such as participating in physical activity and exercise programs, eating well-balanced and healthful meals and having access to health care and assistive equipment. With the right resources and services, people with disabilities can live healthier lifestyles.


According to the CDC, an active lifestyle contributes to better health outcomes for all adults.  Participation in physical activity can decrease a person’s risk for certain health conditions like heart disease and stroke. In Delaware, 42.5% of Delawareans with disabilities report meeting the national physical activity recommendations compared to 52.9% of Delawareans without disabilities1.

A healthy diet is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, five servings of fruits and vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.2 A large majority of Delawareans do not meet those national guidelines. Twenty-seven (27.4%) percent of Delawareans with disabilities report meeting the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables compared to 24.4% of Delawareans without disabilities1.

According to Healthy People 2010, it is important for people to have a usual and ongoing source of health care. Routine physical checkups may contribute to fewer health disparities and long-term costs.3 Eighty-seven (87.6%) percent of Delawareans with disabilities reported having a routine physical check-up within the past 12 months compared to 77.3% of Delawareans without disabilities.1

Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, resulting in an estimated 443,000 premature deaths and $193 billion in direct health-care expenditures and productivity losses each year.4 Smoking is a lifestyle habit that contributes to many secondary health conditions including many cancers, cardiovascular diseases and stroke.5 In Delaware, 57.5% of adults with disabilities report being current or former smokers compared to 44.0% of adults without disabilities.

Alcohol consumption can be a part of a healthy lifestyle, in moderate amounts and responsible situations.  However, excessive alcohol consumption kills approximately 75,000 people annually in the United States.6 Three percent (3.5%) of Delawareans with disabilities report participating in heavy drinking* compared to 6.4% of Delawareans without disabilities.

*Heavy drinking is considered 2 or more drinks a day for men and 1 or more drinks a day for women.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2009). Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey Data [Data File]. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture (2009). 2005 Dietary guidelines for Americans (6th ed.). Washington, DC: U.S: Government Printing Office. Retrieved from

3 US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Healthy People 2010, 2nd ed. With understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health. 2 vols. Washington: Government Printing Office; Nov 2000, p.45. Available from:

4 Garrett, Bridgette E., Dube, Shanta R., Trosclair, Angela,  Caraballo, Ralph S, and Pechacek, Terry. F (2011). Cigarette Smoking—United States 1965-2008. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 60(01);109-113. Retrieved from

5 Office of the Surgeon General. (2010). 2010 Surgeon General’s Report—How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

6Town M, Naimi TS, Mokdad AH, Brewer RD. Health care access among U.S. adults who drink alcohol excessively: missed opportunities for prevention. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2006 Apr [date cited]. Available from: URL: