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Sedentary lifestyles linked to 70,000 UK deaths a year

Tuesday March 26th, 2019

Sitting down for large parts of the day is linked to nearly 70,000 deaths every year in the UK, a new observational study has revealed.

The research by Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University also reveals that the NHS spends more than £0.7bn a year treating the health consequences of sedentary lifestyles.

Although previous studies have shown that spending most of the day sitting down increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and death, there has been no estimate of the financial impact on the NHS before.

The authors, whose study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, combined studies and NHS figures to estimate a figure.

They used previous research into the impact sedentary behaviour has on the relative risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer and deaths from all causes and combined them with figures on the percentage of adults who are sedentary on any given day of the week to estimate the overall impact sedentary behaviour has at a UK population level.

The research team then used figures on sedentary behaviour from the Health Survey for England 2012, which reported that 30% of adults in England spent at least six hours/day sedentary on weekdays and that this increased to 37% of adults on weekends.

The final component was using overall NHS spending on each of the five conditions, uplifted for inflation, to estimate the financial impact sedentary behaviour on the NHS for each of the conditions in the UK in 2016-17.

For all five conditions combined, this amounted to £0.8bn in 2016-17. But they also adjusted the figures to take comorbidity into account, which reduced the overall cost to £0.7bn.

By calculating the deaths from all causes that could be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle and multiplying it by the actual numbers of deaths that occurred in the UK in 2016, they also estimated that 11.6% of all deaths were associated with sedentary behaviour and that 69,276 deaths might have been avoided in 2016 if sedentary behaviour was eliminated in the UK.

Although this is an observational study, the authors suggest that these costs could be a conservative estimate and call for measures to reduce sedentary behaviour.

Heron L, O’Neill C, McAneney H et al. Direct healthcare costs of sedentary behaviour in the UK. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 26 March 2019; doi:10.1136/jech-2018-211758

Tags: Fitness | Heart Health | NHS | UK News

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