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.

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker