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Unhealthy 'shaving years off lives'

Britons are shaving years off their lives due to unhealthy lifestyles, according to a survey.

Women in their 50s lead some of the unhealthiest lives, tending to be more inactive and overweight than other age groups. Men in their 50s and 60s are less active and more overweight than other men, according to data.

Calculations based on life expectancy suggest the average Briton is cutting 12 years off their lifespan due to unhealthy habits such as over-eating, under-exercising, drinking too much and smoking. More than one in eight could be cutting their life short by up to 20 years or more.

Experts for Bupa, which conducted the research, calculated the changes people could make to increase their life expectancy.

For example, a 25-year-old woman who drinks 20 units of alcohol a week could add up to three years to her life by drinking six fewer units a week - the equivalent of cutting out about three glasses of wine.

A 45-year-old man who is three stones overweight could add three years to his life by losing it. He could add up to another eight years if he managed to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity.

A 65-year-old woman who smokes 20 a day could add five years to her life if she gave up, according to the study.

Being married or in a long-term relationship could increase potential life expectancy by more than four years.

The research involved almost 2,000 men and women in their 20s and 30s, about 850 in their 40s, almost 1,000 in their 50s and more than 800 in their 60s. It suggests younger people are more likely to follow a healthy lifestyle because they want to look better and be happy, compared with older people who are more preoccupied with keeping healthy.

Annabel Bentley, medical director of Bupa health and wellbeing, said: "It's never too late to make a change for the better. Whether you're in your 20s or in your 70s, you could add years to your life by making lifestyle changes."

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