The Welsh government has just released its annual Welsh Health Survey for 2014, which shows an upswing in the general health of the Welsh people. Lifestyle habits, like smoking, drinking and diet, are showing encouraging signs of improvement:
- Smoking has fallen to its lowest ever level – 20% of adults reported they currently smoke, down from 21% in 2013 and 26% in 2003/04. The Welsh Government’s aim is to reduce the smoking prevalence level to 16% by 2020
- Drinking and binge drinking has fallen again to its lowest reported level – 40% of adults reported drinking above the recommended guidelines on at least one day in the past week. This was down from 42% in 2013, and included around a quarter (24%) who reported they binge drank
- Obesity rates have not increased over the past two years – around three in five (58%) adults were classified as overweight or obese, including just over one in five (22%) adults were classified as obese
- Around 31% of adults also reported being physically active on five or more days in the previous week
These figures are obviously very encouraging – but there is still further to go. What the Welsh Health Survey highlights above all is the importance of a healthy lifestyle to keep us fighting fit. People will always rely on the health service and their doctors to look after them when they’re unwell; but it is up to us to look after ourselves in order to make sure that we don’t need to go to the doctors as often. The Fit for Work advice hub has a section on health outside work, which covers topics like fitness, healthy eating, smoking and drinking.
Past studies have shown that exercising regularly can halve the chance of catching a virus like a cold, and that when active people do fall ill, the symptoms are far less severe. Keeping fit and eating a healthy, balanced diet, are two simple yet incredibly effective ways to ward off illness and recover faster when you do become sick. The less people getting sick with minor illnesses means more time for GPs to focus on patients with long-term, chronic illnesses.
The benefits from Brits looking after their health don’t just extend to patients and GPs – it can have business benefits too. The cost of sickness absence was estimated to be approximately £609 per employee per year in 2014 (according to the CIPD 2014 Absence Management Survey) – a figure which will fall if employees become healthier. If the upwards trend reflected in the Welsh Health Survey continues, and Brits continue to look after their health and well-being, the benefits will increase for patients, businesses and GPs alike.