Survey shows improvement in Wales’ health
The number of adults smoking in Wales has fallen to the lowest ever level and other lifestyle habits are showing encouraging signs of improvement, a new survey on the nation’s health published yesterday shows.
But Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford has warned that lifestyle choices are too often damaging people’s health and placing a huge burden on the Welsh NHS.
A total of 14,000 adults and 3,000 children took part in the Welsh Health Survey 2014. Key results show:
- 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 smoking prevalence levels 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, down from 42% in 2013, including around a quarter (24%) who reported binge drinking
- 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 reported being physically active on five or more days in the previous week
- 17% of adults reported that they had talked to a GP about their own health in the past two weeks; 9% of adults reported being admitted to hospital as an inpatient in the past 12 months and 32% reported attending hospital as an outpatient
- 94% of children reported having very good or good general health; 21% reported having a long-standing illness, including 6% with a limiting long-standing illness.
Professor Drakeford said:
“The Welsh Health Survey is the nation’s annual health check-up; the results show encouraging signs of improvement, however, many of us are still not acting on advice and taking steps to lead healthier and more active lifestyles, which we know can be beneficial to our own health and wellbeing.
“We also know that our poor lifestyle choices can – and do - put a huge strain on the Welsh NHS. The government has a responsibility to create the right conditions in which we can all live full and healthy lives and each of us has a duty to look after ourselves.
“The NHS is there to help us in our time of need but with that comes a responsibility to use its resources wisely. The NHS is free from charge but not free from obligation.
“I will shortly be publishing our Public Health Bill, which will include proposals to further protect our nation’s health.”
The Welsh Health Survey was first published in 2003/04. Since then there has been a slight increase in adults reporting being treated for diabetes and mental illness and a slight decrease for arthritis. In addition, levels of high blood pressure are higher, and heart conditions are lower than in 2003/04.
Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said:
“While I take encouragement in the gradual improvement seen in our nation’s health, the reality is that too many of us are still drinking too much, eating too much and not being active enough.
“It’s good to see the number of people smoking continuing to fall but there is still a long way to go to reach our goal. Our lifestyle choices can lead to serious health problems which can affect our quality of life and ultimately risk our lives.”
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