Almost nine out of 10 adults in England are leading an unhealthy lifestyle and taking part in at least one behaviour that puts them at risk, such as smoking, drinking too much and being overweight, according to worrying new NHS figures.
Just 13% of adults lead a lifestyle with no risk factors, while more than a third (36%) have one risk, 32% have two risks and 19% have three or more, increasing their chances of being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
The data, released by NHS Digital, also shows that children of obese parents are around three times more likely to be obese themselves than children whose parents are not overweight or obese. The figures come from the Health Survey for England 2017*, which monitors trends in the nation’s health and asks 8,000 adults and 2,000 children about topics including obesity, smoking, and drinking.
The risk score is calculated by combining information on whether people take part in five lifestyle behaviours, including smoking, drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, not eating healthily, being obese and not taking enough exercise.
For the first time, the association between parent and child weight has been analysed, with 28% of children of an obese mother also found to be obese, compared with eight percent of children whose mother was not overweight or obese. Almost a quarter (24%) of children of an obese father were also obese, compared with nine percent of children where the father was not overweight or obese.
Almost two thirds of men (67%) and 62% of women surveyed were overweight or obese, while approximately a third of children (30%) aged between two and 15 in England were overweight or obese in 2017. Yet around half of parents - 47% of mothers and 52% of fathers - think that their obese child is about the right weight.
Regionally, the West Midlands had the highest proportion of adults with two or more risk factors, at 58%, while London had the lowest at 43%. Adults in the lowest income households were twice as likely as those in highest income households to have three or more risk factors, at 26% compared to 13%.
More than a third of adults recorded living with chronic pain, defined as pain or discomfort that had troubled them all or some of the time for more than the last three months, while the proportion of adults diagnosed with diabetes increased from three to eight percent among men and from two to five percent among women between 1994 and 2017.
Results released earlier this year from a comprehensive American study spanning more than 30 years showed that adopting the five health markers can add around 12 years to the life of a man and 14 years to that of a woman. In August, a documentary was broadcast showing TV presenter Adrian Chiles opening up about his drinking and urging others to ‘be honest’ about the amount of alcohol they consume.
* The Health Survey for England gathers information from both adults and children and is commissioned by NHS Digital and carried out by NatCen Social Research in conjunction with University College London, who co-author the report.