Health Crisis

for Britain’s Middle-Aged

     05 Sep 11

Middle-aged Britons are experiencing a mid-life health crisis, according to new research from Bupa, which shows that those aged 45-54 are more likely to be obese, more likely to smoke and more likely to suffer from depression than their peers around the world.

* British middle-aged fare worst in the world for health
* 45-54 year olds suffer worse physical and mental health than all other generations

The international Bupa Health Pulse study, which asked more than 13,000 people in 12 different countries questions about their health and lifestyles has shown that late-middle age is the toughest time health-wise for Britons. No other country in the survey – which included Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia showed such a consistent range of unhealthy results for this age group .

The study, which questioned more than 2,000 people in the UK, found:

* Obesity: Over a third (35%) of British 45-54 year olds are obese – double the international average for this age group (17%).

* Smoking: A quarter (24%) of 45-54 year old smokers get through 10 or more cigarettes a day compared with an international average of 18 per cent.

* Depression: Over a quarter (27%) of those polled in this age group say they suffer from depression compared with just 17 per cent internationally.

* Negative outlook: Nearly half of British 45-54 year olds (45%) say they feel negative about their financial situation, 30 per cent feel negative about their career and 21 per cent feel negative about life in general – all higher than the international average.

Dr Sneh Khemka, medical director, Bupa International said:

“The Bupa Health Pulse survey makes alarming reading for a generation of Britons. The research reveals not only that Britain’s middle-aged are suffering from a health crisis, but also that the problem is particularly apparent in Britain.

“People hitting 45 often find the unhealthy excesses of their youth are catching up with them just at the time when their financial and personal responsibilities are growing and they are increasingly time poor. These combined elements mean that, for this age group, health can fall down their list of priorities.

“Fortunately however, there are no medical reasons why middle aged Britons should fare worse for health than other age groups, or their peers around world – so it’s possible to tackle this trend. While Bupa’s research shows that no one country in the world has the perfect formula for good health, the fact that this middle aged health crisis is a UK dominant problem, demonstrates that there is much we can and must learn from other countries.”

Bupa recommends the following:

* Be more self-aware. Britons need to face the reality of their poor health. In the UK, where we have an obesity problem, more people are overweight than think they are. In Asian countries, including Thailand, China and Hong Kong where they predominately have a healthy BMI, more people think they’re overweight than those who actually are.

* Reprioritise. Britons need to achieve a better work/life balance and to appreciate that emotional health is intrinsically linked to good health. Latin American countries are the most upbeat and positive about life, their health and the future. In the UK, we could learn from Mexico and Brazil where they have stronger emphasis on social life, and prioritise family and friends.

* Challenge the status quo. Britons should challenge their social norms. In India where people’s social lives predominately revolve around family activities, very few people drink alcohol. In the UK, where more people drink than in any other country, people’s social lives often revolve around the local pub. We have room to be more inventive with what we do socially, and come up with healthier alternatives.

* Look East for nutritional inspiration. Britons could do with taking a good look at their diet and take inspiration from other countries. In Asia, where rates of obesity are much lower than in the UK, they have much less salt, saturated fat and sugar in their diets than in Western countries. They also eat more vegetables and fruit. It is often easier than it seems to experiment with your diet.