Diet & Obesity: Scotland

Scottish Health Survey
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The latest Scottish Health Survey, published today, provides encouraging evidence that, in some areas of their lifestyle, the Scots are now beginning to heed the messages about the link between lifestyle and good health. But the Survey also confirms that there is still a long way to go before we achieve the level of lifestyle change which will deliver better health to the population as a whole.

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The Survey aims to monitor trends in our health, identify risk factors associated with particular health conditions, look at the differences between regions and subgroups of the population, and enable comparisons to be made with the position in England.

Key Health Points:

  • Over half of adults and children ate potatoes, pasta or rice at least once a day.
  • 46 per cent of men and 59 per cent of women in the 16 to 74 age group ate fresh fruit at least once a day as did 54 per cent of boys and 26 per cent of girls aged two to 15.
  • Around half of adults and children ate white fish every week, while four in ten ate oil-rich fish each week.
  • A third of both men and women reported that they smoked cigarettes. 16% of boys and 15% of girls aged 13-15 had saliva cotinine levels which would indicate regular smoking behaviour. However, levels of self-reported smoking were much lower, suggesting substantial under-reporting of smoking behaviour among this age group.
  • The prevalence of problem drinking decreased with age: among men from 16% for those aged 16-24 to 7% for those aged 65-74; among women, from 8% to 2% respectively. Some 9% of girls and 12% of boys reported having drunk alcohol in the past week.
  • 38% of men and 27% of women participated in 30 minutes or more of moderate or vigorous activity on at least 5 days per week, while just under one quarter of men and women were inactive according to this guideline. 73% of boys and 60% of girls participated in physical activities for at least 60 minutes on most days in the last week.
  • Around 24% of men and women had a cardiovascular disorder. Of these:
    – over 30% were current cigarette smokers;
    – 31% of men drank in excess of 21 units of alcohol a week and over 8% of women drank in excess of 14 units a week;
    – over 38% of men and 35% of women were physically inactive;
    – over 77% of men and 73% of women were either overweight or obese.

One of the most important aspects of the Survey programme is the ability to monitor changes in the population’s health over time. Changes to lifestyle and behaviour cannot be accomplished overnight. However, some encouraging signs are beginning to emerge. For example, since 1995, among the 16-64 age group there has been:

  • A 6% increase in the numbers eating fruit at least once a day.
  • An increase by over 9% in the numbers eating potatoes, pasta or rice five or more times a week.
  • A decrease by over 2% in the numbers who usually or generally add salt to food at the table.

However, not all the results are positive. For example:

  • A 3% increase in the prevalence of obesity.
  • Although there was a 3% decrease in the number of women smoking cigarettes, there was a 1% increase in young women smokers. There was also a 2% increase in the number of male smokers.
  • Physical activity levels remain inadequate.

Thus the Survey is giving out a very clear message that the Scottish Executive must continue to take vigorous and concerted action across all four fronts of smoking, diet, alcohol consumption and physical exercise if we are to achieve the reduction in the prevalence of Scotland’s 3 main killer diseases – heart disease, cancer and strokes. This action is being spearheaded by the Executive through its implementation of the White Paper, “Towards a Healthier Scotland”, in collaboration with its key partners – the NHS, local authorities, the voluntary and private sectors and the community.

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