Scotland tops list for lifestyle health risks: study

Nearly every adult in Scotland is burdened with at least one major lifestyle risk factor, and 55 percent of the population are coping with three or more, according to a study released Friday.

Looking at five health-threatening behaviours - smoking, heavy drinking, lack of exercise, poor diet, obesity - researchers found that twice as many Scottish men and women face a triple threat or worse than in any continental European country in which a similar study has been done.

Only in England and the United States are levels of risk even remotely close.

"Scottish people are living dangerously," said David Conway, a professor at the University of Glasgow and the main architect of the study.

"Only 2.5 percent of the population have no risk factors at all. It is frightening," he said in a phone interview, noting that the comparable figure in other rich nations was generally six or seven percent.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health, the study contributes to a growing interest in the accumulated impact of harmful lifestyle choices, Conway said.

Up to now, most research has focused only on individual risk factors, one at a time - smoking or drinking or overeating.

"But unhealthy behaviours cluster. And the combination is synergistic, which increases the overall risk disproportionately," he said.

This has major implications for both healthcare systems and individuals trying to reduce their exposure to lifestyle disease.

"When people have combined risk factors, it might be better to take a more holistic - or 'whole patient' - approach," he added.

To measure the scope of the problem, Conway and colleagues sifted through the 2003 Scottish Health Survey. Full data on the five risk factors under review was available for 6,574 men and women.

The researchers created a 'yes' or 'no' threshold to determine whether an individual faced a given lifestyle-related health threat.

For tobacco, for example, all smokers were considered to be at risk, while never and ex-smokers were not.

The UK Royal College of Physicians' definition of "sensible drinking" - set at 30 milligrams (24 grams) of pure alcohol per day for men, and 20 milligrams (16 grams) for women - was the cutoff for heavy consumption.

For excess fat, the tipping point was a "body-mass index" (BMI) over 25, widely viewed as the threshold for being "overweight." Above 30, one is obese.

While he was braced for a grim picture, even Conway was startled by the results.

More than 85 percent of adults had at least two risk factors, 55 percent had three or more, and nearly a fifth had four or all five.

The most prevalent single lifestyle menace, affecting four out of five people, was poor diet - not enough fruit and vegetables.

Ten percent of respondents were both smokers and heavy drinkers, and three-quarters of these had picked up an additional two or three health threats as well.

The main drivers of these accumulated risks appeared to be social and economic.

Those living in the most deprived areas and with poorest educational qualifications had a much greater probability of piling up unhealthful lifestyles.

Countries with smaller disparities in income and social levels, Conway noted, also had fewer people with an accumulation of health-wreaking habits.

"Our findings suggest we should tackle some of the social drivers. Instead of just trying to address the behaviours, perhaps we could try to address the inequalities too," he said.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
science
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

    £39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game