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29th December 2014

How is the health of the nation?

How is the health of the nationThe Health and Social Care Information Centre has just published the results of the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2013. This monitors trends in the nation’s health, and provides regular information on risk factors for disease that cannot be obtained from other sources

The health of our shift workers

For the first time a comparison of the health between shift workers (defined as working outside the hours of 7am to 7pm) and non-shift workers has been reported. This is of particular importance for those working in health and social care, where shift workers are an integral part of the workforce. Both men and women in shift work were more likely to report bad general health and to have a limiting longstanding illness than non-shift workers. Shift workers were also more likely than non-shift workers to be obese. Perhaps related to this, shift workers were more likely to have type 2 diabetes than non-shift workers.

The weight of the population

In 2013 around a quarter of adults were obese, and 67 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women were either overweight or obese. The rates of obesity were similar in 2013 to recent years. Obesity increases with age, with only a slight reduction amongst adults aged 74 and over. We have then an interesting situation in adults over 65 years in relation to weight status, where we see an unacceptably high prevalence of both overweight and underweight adults. We therefore have to develop effective public health measures for these conditions as they are both related to significantly increased health risks.

Did we eat 5 A DAY?

Fruit and vegetable consumption is measured in the HSE as an indicator of dietary quality. A 2005 report estimated that food related ill health is responsible for about 10 per cent of deaths and illnesses, costing the NHS £6 million annually. The vast majority of this burden is due to unhealthy diets. Dietary goals to prevent chronic disease emphasise eating more fruit vegetables and pulses. The average daily fruit and vegetable consumption was higher in women than in men. Women consumed around 3.7 portions compared with 3.5 for men; 28 per cent of women ate five or more portions per day compared with 25 per cent of men.

Looking forward to 2015

The Health Survey provides an annual snapshot of the health of the nation and allows comparisons over time. This report shows that the majority of men and women remain overweight or obese. Whilst the trends in obesity appear to have stabilised, the report highlights that those who are obese within our population are getting heavier; in other words more obese people are falling into higher categories of obesity. Furthermore substantial proportions of the population are not meeting the fruit and vegetable daily recommended intakes.

Going forward into a new year, understanding barriers to improving diet may be key to improving the health of the nation. Improvements in 2015 are still needed.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Ayela Spiro

Nutrition Science Manager, British Nutrition Foundation

Ayela is a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, where her role involves providing expert advice on nutrition and health issues to a number of key audiences including consumers, health professionals, charities, the media and the food industry. At the heart of her work is the communication of nutrition science that promotes understanding of nutrition and health and contributes to the improved wellbeing of all.

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