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Health crisis for Britain's middle-aged

Ouch, a very interesting international health survey, that has just been released, reports:

"Middle-aged Britons are experiencing a mid-life health crisis, according to new research from Bupa, which shows that those aged 45-54 are more likely to be obese, more likely to smoke and more likely to suffer from depression than their peers around the world.

The international Bupa Health Pulse study, which asked more than 13,000 people in 12 different countries questions about their health and lifestyles has shown that late-middle age is the toughest time health-wise for Britons. No other country in the survey - which included Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia showed such a consistent range of unhealthy results for this age group.

The study, which questioned more than 2,000 people in the UK, found:

  • Obesity: Over a third (35%) of British 45-54 year olds are obese - double the international average for this age group (17%).

  • Smoking: A quarter (24%) of 45-54 year old smokers get through 10 or more cigarettes a day compared with an international average of 18 percent.

  • Depression: Over a quarter (27%) of those polled in this age group say they suffer from depression compared with just 17 per cent internationally.

  • Negative outlook: Nearly half of British 45-54 year olds (45%) say they feel negative about their financial situation, 30 per cent feel negative about their career and 21 per cent feel negative about life in general - all higher than the international average."

The fuller international report is freely downloadable.  The survey was done by Ipsos MORI  in 12 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand, UK and US.  Quotas were set to ensure all data was as nationally representative of the offline population as possible.  Information more specifically about the middle-aged in Britain is viewable here.  The report recommends:

  • "Be more self-aware.  Britons need to face the reality of their poor health.  In the UK, where we have an obesity problem, more people are overweight than think they are.  In Asian countries, including Thailand, China and Hong Kong where they predominately have a healthy BMI, more people think they're overweight than those who actually are.

  • Reprioritise.  Britons need to achieve a better work/life balance and to appreciate that emotional health is intrinsically linked to good health.  Latin American countries are the most upbeat and positive about life, their health and the future.  In the UK, we could learn from Mexico and Brazil where they have stronger emphasis on social life, and prioritise family and friends.

  • Challenge the status quo.  Britons should challenge their social norms.  In India where people's social lives predominately revolve around family activities, very few people drink alcohol.  In the UK, where more people drink than in any other country, people's social lives often revolve around the local pub.  We have room to be more inventive with what we do socially, and come up with healthier alternatives.

  • Look East for nutritional inspiration.  Britons could do with taking a good look at their diet and take inspiration from other countries.  In Asia, where rates of obesity are much lower than in the UK, they have much less salt, saturated fat and sugar in their diets than in Western countries.  They also eat more vegetables and fruit.  It is often easier than it seems to experiment with your diet."

There are many other blog posts on this website making the same kind of points.  See for example "15 minutes of exercise daily reduces mortality by 14% - and each additional 15 minutes gives 4% additional mortality benefit", "Strong relationships improve survival as much as quitting smoking" and "Would you like to be 14 years younger - it's largely a matter of choice!" 

 

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