Eight in ten are ‘burying heads in sand’ about health
Middle-aged adults are facing a health crisis after figures showed that the vast majority drink too much alcohol, are overweight or exercise too little.
Experts have urged the public to stop “burying their heads in the sand” and to confront an issue which sees more than eight in ten living an unhealthy lifestyle. Desk jobs, a deteriorating diet and a lack of time are impacting on the “sandwich generation” – those who have to care for young children and ageing parents.
The report by Public Heath England (PHE) revealed that 87 per cent of men and 79 per cent of women aged 40 to 60 are either overweight or obese, exceed the weekly alcohol guidelines or are physically inactive.
Prevalence of obesity among adults in the British Isles (2015):
• Ireland 23%
• N. Ireland 25%
• England 25.6% (2014)
• Scotland 28.8%
• Wales 23.5%
There is clear evidence of excess, and in some cases increasing, mortality among Irish men and women from coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke (Harding et al, 2008).
Professor Muir Gray, the campaign’s clinical adviser, said people need to undergo a complete change in attitude to overcome what he believes is “an environmental problem”.
“The demands of modern- day living are taking their toll on the health of the nation, and it’s those in middle age that are suffering the consequences most.
“More than 15 million Britons are living with a longterm health condition and busy lives and desk jobs make it difficult to live healthily. But just making a few small changes will have significant benefits to people’s health now and in later life,” he said. “By taking action in midlife, you can reduce your risk not only of type 2 diabetes, which is a preventable condition, but you can also reduce your risk of dementia and disability, and being a burden to your family.”
Adults are advised to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, the equivalent of half an hour of brisk walking per day. But just over one in four middle-aged people fail to do more than 30 minutes of exercise a week according to PHE.
The chief medical officer also warns of the risks of alcohol and advises that, while no amount of drink can be considered safe, adults should not consume more than 14 units per week – the equivalent of seven 175ml glasses of wine or seven pints of average-strength beer.
Keith Fenton, PHE Director of Health and Wellbeing, said people should take a few minutes to really think about the direction their health is headed in.
“People are busy with work, with families, with the daily grind and sometimes their own health is the least of their priorities,” he said.
The Head of Care at Diabetes UK, Dan Howarth, added that although making lifestyle alterations can be difficult, it is important to address these growing concerns. “We know that people often bury their heads in the sand when it comes to general health but the consequences of doing nothing can be catastrophic,” he said. “We know how hard it is to change the habits of a lifetime but we want people to seek the help they need to lose weight, stop smoking and take more exercise.”