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Scots 'living dangerously'

Scots  living dangerously Two thirds overweight or obese

Almost the entire adult population of Scotland are 'living dangerously' due to their unhealthy lifestyles, according to a new study.

An estimated 97.5 per cent of Scots are likely to be either cigarette smokers, heavy drinkers, overweight, don't exercise or have a poor diet. And two thirds are either overweight or obese.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow analysed the lifestyles of 6,574 Scottish men and women using data from the 2003 Scottish Health Study.

They looked at five major lifestyle risk facors; smoking, drinking, poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight or obese.

All increase a person's risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, types of cancer and alcohol related diseases which are major killers in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The study found that 97.5 per cent of Scots had at least one of the risk factors, whilst a staggering 55 per cent had three.

And one in five of the population had four or all five of the risk factors.

A meagre 2.5 per cent of the population were free from all five risk factors.

Dr David Conway, from the University of Glasgow, who led the study, said: "Our analysis shows that around two-thirds of the Scottish population is overweight or obese, a similar proportion are not sufficiently physically active, and most people have a poor diet. It is just that it is not the same majority for each factor."

The study also found a clear link between poor health and low educational achievement- those without a higher education were three times more likely to have four or more risk factors.

As bad as these figures appear, the true picture may even be worse, as the findings are based on people reporting their own eating and drinking habits.

"Respondents might tend to give answers that would convey more favourable behaviors," said Dr Conway.

"This was confirmed for alcohol consumption by an analysis comparing self-reported alcohol intake in the Scottish Health Surveys with alcohol estimates, which suggested that surveys may understate alcohol consumption by as much as 50 per cent."

One glimmer of hope for the Scots (and the rest of us) is that three of the risk factors - poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity - are very closely related. Changing one of the risk factors can have a positive effect on the others.

The findings are published to-day in the journal BMC Public Health.

This article was published on Fri 11 June 2010

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