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Health factors have the power to prevent and postpone diseases and death; however, studies using the same methodology in both men and women are sparse. We aimed to study the ability of health factors to prevent mortality in a population-based, 26-year follow-up of Swedish men and women. During 1969-70, a health-screening programme was offered to a stratified sample of 3,064 individuals aged 18-64 years to estimate health-care needs. Missing data (largely according to protocol) for physical fitness, BMI, and smoking habits left 935 subjects, 463 men and 472 women. Alcohol consumption in grams per week and BMI was calculated. Tobacco smoking was recorded as yes/no. Multivariate analysis was performed by Cox regression with age adjusted hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI). Moderate alcohol consumption did not lead to any decrease in mortality. Having two health factors halved the mortality risk in men and women (hazard ratio (HR) 0.52, confidence interval (CI) 0.39-0.70). A further risk reduction was seen in men with three health factors (HR 0.17, CI 0.074-0.41). Men had about 70 per cent higher risk of mortality compared with women after adjustments for all health factors (HR 1.67, CI 1.26-2.23). Men compared to women had greater benefit of all three health factors. This in combination with the overall higher mortality risk in men makes a healthy lifestyle more important for them. The benefit of moderate alcohol consumption could not be detected in this study, and may be explained by an unhealthy drinking pattern in Sweden.