Implications to poor lifestyle choices
Through the extensive research I have recently carried out, it has become evident that the health of the UK nation is in decline. The consequences for this are vast, ranging from greater risks of chronic illnesses such as cancer, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, to lack of concentration, lower work productivity and a more negative outlook on life.
I was interested to discover how our daily lifestyle choices impacted additional societal spending. Had anyone put a price on how we regard diet, resilience (sleep), mind and exercise? This article shows they have, and my findings were staggering.
Currently 63% of adults in the UK are overweight or obese. There is a strong correlation between parent and childhood obesity, therefore it is not surprising that 1:5 children enter primary school as overweight or obese, and leave primary school 7 years later with the ratio having grown to 1:3. Obesity is currently responsible for 30,000 deaths per year, reducing life expectancy by 9 years. The UK spends more on obesity and diabetes treatment than on the police, fire and judicial services combined. This costs society £27 billion per year, and more specifically £6.1 billion per year to the NHS. Obesity is preventable. We make roughly 200 choices a day regarding food; what to eat, when we are full, do we go back for seconds, to have dessert or not etc. 3 million junk food meals are consumed in the UK every day. I believe that if we educate people to cook simple meals from scratch, this will be the first step to combatting this health epidemic, thus prolonging peoples lives and reducing unnecessary spending.
Sleep is undervalued. We have been designed to spend 1/3 of our lives asleep (7-9 hours per night is optimal for adults), but in the last 90 years we have fought Mother Nature and reduced the total sleep we get per night by 20%. Sleep is responsible for a vast number of processes in our bodies and minds. To name a few sleep reduces blood pressure, body weight, chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type II diabetes and enhances our immune system. Mentally sleep enhances reaction times, concentration, mood, memory and IQ. Sleeping less than 6 hours per night costs the British economy £40.3 billion per year through lost productivity and days off ill, amounting to 1.9% of GDP (which is behind the USA - 2.3% and Japan- 2.9% GDP). Corporations lose roughly £1500/year per employee, with this figure nearly doubling for individuals with chronic sleep problems. The World health organisation (WHO) has labelled lack of sleep as a global health epidemic, and looking at these figures I think I agree!
Recently mental health is now being discussed more widely. The statistics are still high with ¼ adults being diagnosed with depression and anxiety each year, with numbers continuing to rise. In children aged 5-19 years, diagnosable mental health conditions have increased 48% in the last 15 years. Once again, there is a direct correlation between children and adults: half of children who suffer mental health conditions as a child will suffer again as an adult. Societal costs of £94 billion/year cover the treatment, social support and losses due to absenteeism. Businesses fork out £35 billion per year, equating to £1300 for every employee in the UK due to absenteeism, presenteesim (present at work but not being productive) and job turn over. Teaching about mental health from an early age will help prevent conditions emerging in the first place, and will educate people to seek help earlier rather than later.
WHO have identified that physical inactivity is one of the biggest causes of premature death, causing 5% of all deaths. Today people are 20% less active than in the 1960’s. Due to the rise in technology and decline in manual jobs, we are the first generation to consciously have to build physical activity into our daily lives. 67% males, and 55% females are achieving the 150min/week moderate physical activity target, but staggeringly 25% adults do less than 30 minutes exercise a week. This trend isn’t any better for children, with only 21% boys and 16% girls getting the daily recommended level of physical activity. Lack of physical activity is costing the UK £7.4 billion/year, including £1 billion to the NHS (spending implications include long term diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, greater decency on home, residential and nursing care etc.). Physical activity can help prevent and mange more than 20 chronic illness. The good news is physical activity is available to all, and through small changes to daily routines these diseases and subsequent knock on costs are avoidable.
Through education, it is vital to spread the message of why it is important to be healthy. By making suggestions how small changes can be implemented into daily lives this is the first step to the UK a happier, healthier and more productive society.
Linked in: Claire Willsher