Leading occupational health providers, Medigold, have highlighted some UK statistical health trends which could help focus employers’ efforts on improving health in the workplace. A report published in May 2016 by The Cass Business School and the International Longevity Centre reveals the findings of their study based on figures from the Human Mortality Database , which measured the differences in age between the youngest 10% of adult deaths and the oldest 5%.
The gap between the lifespans of rich and poor people in England and Wales is rising for the first time since the 1870s, researchers have suggested. Everyone is living longer but rich people’s lives are extending faster and, although better life expectancy narrowed the gap in the early 20th Century, this trend reversed for men in the 1990s.
Influencing personal lifestyle choices
The researchers attributed the widening disparities to poor lifestyle choices:
- Many of the big gains from public health improvements are in the past and personal choices are now much more important
- Men in lower socio-economic groups are the most likely to make damaging lifestyle choices.
“They put themselves in harm’s way on average more than women do – they smoke more, drink more and there are periods in their lives when they partake in riskier activities,” say the authors.
The authors suggest lack of wealth is not directly responsible for the difference, but the poorest groups are more likely to suffer the cumulative effects of decades of poor lifestyle choices and income inequality – while wealthier, more educated people may find it easier to adopt healthier habits.
The authors say the negative health outcomes of smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet and lack of exercise “are disproportionately associated with the poorest in society”.
They say it is vital to encourage healthier lifestyles and to counter pressure on individuals from “exposure to advertising, their communities and peer groups”.
Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre, was reported in a BBC article as saying the figures were “particularly worrying”.
“Preventing inequalities in ill health and disability must be a priority for policy action,” she said.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said everybody should have the opportunity to have a long and healthy life.
“The number of workless households is at a record low and we know that economic security can provide the foundation for better physical and mental health.
Promoting workplace health
As an employer, you may not feel as though the health of your staff is your concern or even something you can have any influence over.
However, promoting health in the workplace should be a key focus for maintaining productivity. Ensuring that your employees have the information and support they need to make healthy lifestyle choices can make a huge difference to your business.
Medigold Health gives occupational health advice that is tailored to your business. Contact us today if you need advice about encouraging your employees to make healthy lifestyle choices.