British people destined to die younger

Early death risk factors in the UK

The news is reporting today that we are one of the sickest nations in the western world. Apparently if you are British, you will die younger than many other western countries, but what is the reason?

The news article I was reading was asking is it the fault of the NHS? When compared to Australia, who came out top, the NHS only spend a couple of hundred pounds less per head.

I read a lot of articles that discuss what is the reason for the nation becoming fatter, what can we do about it, who is to blame. Blame simply means no one organisation wants to tackle the problem to find a solution.

What factors are in play?

  • Increased drug use
  • Increased alcohol use / abuse, causing liver and kidney problems.
  • Change in diet – the foods that are available become more engineered and processed as technology marches forwards, possibly a major factor in obesity and poor diet
  • Change in leisure time activities. The increased technology means that children are a lot less likely to ‘play outside’ like I used to when I was younger.
  • Tobacco related illnesses

Food and leisure are the two things that, if you look at the pie chart, are the biggest contributors to risk factors for premature death in adults. The highest risk age is 20-55 so says the Sky news report. But what is going on?

Processed foods

As the food industry used advances in science and technology, we find more and more manufactured ingredients in our food. They even manufacture sugar now, calling it aspartame, and selling it as a new low fat sweet alternative. Here is an interesting article arguing the for’s and against’s for aspartame. It is still a contentious in research that there is an obesity link but there are strong suggestions that it is in fact possible that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain. The other issue here is that someone with a sweet tooth would assume that diet drinks are OK, would that unconsciously mean they are likely to self justify drinking more of them than they would otherwise?

The pure fact is that carbohydrate is hidden in all sorts of foods these days that are widely commercially available. That and aspartame combined, and of course obesity is likely. Would you be more likely to be slimmer while eating natural foods? Not necessarily  Sugar is sugar, no matter what the source. You could in fact eat 1/2 of your daily intake in fruit, and have the same weight issues.

Leisure activities

The differences between what children do in their spare time now, and when I was a child are stark, and easy to see. When I was young there were 3 channels (I remember the launch of number 4 when I was a teenager!) no video recorder, no pause of live TV, no mobile phones, no computers. What did you do? You went out to play, rode a bike, hopscotch, whatever. But, nothing indoors, if you could help it!

How things change. I don’t remember any children at my school having weight issues, everyone was active. These days leisure time seems to revolve around some type of electronic gaming device, or a computer. Children are much less active in general. To be honest, I think the adults are too, for a similar reason. Technology has changed how we live our lives, and I am not sure all of that is a positive one. If you leg an inactive life as a child, it is likely to follow through into adulthood.

I was not particularly sporty when I was young. I was out playing because there was nothing else to do indoors, but when I moved into adulthood, and ‘playing out’ was no longer appropriate, because I had not developed a sporty lifestyle or habits, I then became obese.

It is sad that in a nation such as ours, the weather limits an outdoors style lifestyle, tightly packed populations making it all the more difficult, and advancing technology meaning we no longer eat natural products like we did, and no longer spend time simply ‘doing stuff’ like we did. 

We need to stop looking for places to lay the blame, and start looking at what we ALL can do to rectify the problem. Every little helps? I would say so. 


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