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Stressed and Sedentary Lifestyles Increase as Recession Appears to Take its Toll on Britain's Health

    LONDON, May 11 /PRNewswire/ --
    - Health of the Nation has Declined by Two Points in the Last Six Months
    - Britain is Overwhelmed, Overworked and Overweight
    - 1.9 Million More Brits Leading Unhealthy Lives Than Six Months Ago

The nation appears to be stuck in a downward spiral of unhealthy lifestyles as increasingly stressed Britons may be looking to save time and money by cutting back on exercise and healthy foods in the current economic climate.

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According to PruHealth's bi-annual Vitality Index* - which tracks the nation's health trends across stress, exercise, diet, smoking, health knowledge and check-ups - the health of the nation has declined by two points since July 2008 to a health rating of just 59 per cent today. Worryingly, nearly one in five (18 per cent) Brits now admit they live unhealthy lifestyles, an increase of 4 per cent in just six months.**

Overworked and overwhelmed

It seems the recession is leaving people not only overworked, but increasingly overwhelmed. In the last six months the percentage of Brits saying they are under a great deal or a significant amount of stress has increased from 38 per cent to 40 per cent. As confidence in the economy has decreased it is perhaps of little surprise that almost half (44 per cent) of Brits report their stress levels have increased

Half (50 per cent) of these stressed adults disclose that stress is affecting their personal life and many now feel that it is the greatest health risk to the nation (10 per cent). Perhaps unsurprisingly, two in five (41 per cent) people suffering from stress put their increased stress levels down to their money worries and 22 per cent say this is down to increased workload with the same number citing redundancy worries.

Interestingly, it is those in poor health who have seen the most significant rise in their stress levels, up from 56 per cent to 64 per cent. Those in good health cited only a slight rise from 32 per cent to 34 per cent.

Exercise on the wane

The problems of increased stress are being exacerbated by lack of exercise. The number of people reporting that they never exercise has increased from 11 per cent to 14 per cent in just six months. Over a quarter (28 per cent) of adults blame work commitments for their lack of exercise. At a time when exercise can be used to help decrease stress levels, it appears people are exercising even less due to both time and money pressures.

Of those who do exercise, less than a third (29 per cent) exercise four times a week or more and the percentage of adults doing the government-recommended 30 minutes of exercise each session has fallen significantly from 34 per cent to 29 per cent in just six months.

Commenting on the findings, Dr David Grainger, Senior Fellow, Cambridge University, said: "In just six months there has been a marked widening of the 'health gap' as lifestyle improvements evaporate. Replicated across the entire adult population of the UK, these findings suggest a staggering two million more people have an unhealthy lifestyle than six months ago. The most likely cause? Economic recession."

Food for thought

With the threat of an obesity epidemic still on the horizon, the percentage of adults eating a healthy balanced diet has also dropped from 50 per cent to 47 per cent.

Almost half of Brits (47 per cent) say they struggle to eat the recommended "5-a-day" servings of fresh fruit and vegetables; only 24 per cent manage to eat their 5 portions on a daily basis and alarmingly a fifth (21 per cent) only get their daily intake of fresh fruit and veg once a week or less.

Primarily, it's the perceived cost of exercising and eating healthily that is driving more people to cut exercise and healthy eating out of their daily routines. Over half (56 per cent) of Britons feel they cannot currently afford the added expenses associated with being healthy, such as gym memberships and super-foods, and over one in three (37 per cent) say they find it hard to take care of themselves due to their busy schedule. Sixty one per cent of people simply feel healthy foods are more expensive than the unhealthy alternatives.

Shaun Matisonn, chief executive at PruHealth, comments: "Not only are increased financial and time pressures taking a toll on our stress levels, but they are also having an impact on the amount of exercise people are doing and the content of our diets too. However, it's a lack of health self-awareness that is the key issue. Three-quarters of people see the health of themselves and their loved ones as a key priority, but for the majority it would take a diagnosis of ill health to motivate any significant change of lifestyle.

"Finding a way to motivate a change in lifestyle is the biggest hurdle. We need to find a way of helping people to stop thinking about what they should be doing for their health and actually doing it. We need to set achievable targets, this way people can take action now to prevent illness, rather than waiting to be diagnosed with a problem."

The information contained in Prudential UK's press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions. Full consumer product information can be found at Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.

Notes to Editors:

*The research was carried out on behalf of PruHealth, the insurer that rewards policyholders for engaging in healthy behaviour, by Ipsos MORI. A nationally representative sample of 3,034 GB adults were questioned online in January 2009. Results are weighted to be representative of the GB adult population. Seasonal variations may affect some responses. **4% of 48million UK adults is 1.9million people

To construct the Vitality Scorecard, six different areas (exercise, diet, smoking, stress, check-ups/screenings and health knowledge) were surveyed and equally weighted to create an Index. The Index is a single number (59 per cent) that represents, in the main, the aggregate behaviour of those people surveyed, together with a smaller attitudinal component around exercise. This attitudinal component can be an important predictor in itself of the nation's future health, as intentions around exercise can quickly shape positive behaviours. An improvement in the Index over time will indicate that the population is behaving in a more healthy manner, and is likely to have improved health (e.g. lower incidence of chronic disease) in the future. As such, the Index becomes a lead indicator for health trends.

About PruHealth

PruHealth was launched in October 2004 as a joint venture between Prudential and Discovery Holdings from South Africa. Since launch, PruHealth has grown quickly. It now covers over 190,000 lives and in a sample of its individual customers, one third said they had changed their behaviour for the better because of its Vitality reward scheme which encourages policyholders to look after their health.

    - Health of the nation has declined by two
      points in the last six months

    - Britain is overwhelmed, overworked and overweight

    - 1.9 million more Brits leading unhealthy lives than six months ago

SOURCE PruHealth
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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