Herbs and Helpers
The annual Health Survey for England has been published by NHS Digital.
The poll of 10,000 people is essentially the stock-take of the nation’s health, measuring everything from exercise habits to happiness.
So what does it tell us about the health and wellbeing of people in England?
1. Obsessed with weight, but with good reason
Nearly half of people are trying to lose weight. To do that, people are using a variety of different approaches from signing up to a gym to using fitness apps.
But given the levels of obesity and numbers who are overweight, this should not come as a surprise.
The survey shows six in 10 adults are overweight or obese.
It’s a figure that has remained pretty static for the past decade or so – despite all the government initiatives warning about the problem over the years.
2. People spend a lot of time sitting around
On the average day, people spend about five hours sedentary – and that is outside of any time spent at work.
It means many must literally return home after work and collapse in front of telly until it is time to go to bed.
And it probably helps to explain why people are failing to get our recommended amount of physical activity – 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity.
Nearly four in 10 do not hit these targets
3. And life’s not making people particularly happy
The survey also asked people about their mental health and wellbeing. This included a questionnaire asking them about their general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence.
Those who score more highly are deemed to have “probable mental ill health”.
This time round, 19% of participants fell into this category. Four years ago, it was 15%.
This worsening has been highlighted by other pieces of research and has been blamed on everything from austerity to social media.
4. But vices are being cut back on
Smoking and drinking rates – at least to harmful levels – continue to fall.
In fact, the declining number of smokers is perhaps one of the success stories of the 21st Century.
By the turn of the century, over a quarter of adults smoked. Now, it is down to fewer than one in five.
The decline in hazardous drinking – classed as more than 14 units a week – has been more gradual.
But it is still heading in the right direction – albeit with men still twice as likely to drink too much than women.
5. Becoming a nation of pill poppers instead
Nearly half of adults had taken a prescription medicine in the past week, with one in four having had three or more.
Unsurprisingly, medicine use increased with age – 90% of over-75s had used them in the past week compared with 19% of those aged 16 to 24.
And, worryingly, 3% of people were taking more than 10 medicines – and among over-85s, this rose to 13%.
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