Scottish population taking risks with its health

Issued: Tue, 15 Jun 2010 13:51:00 BST

The majority of adults in Scotland are taking some risk with their health, according to a new study published today.

A team of researchers led by Dr David Conway, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Dental Public Health at the University of Glasgow, studied data from 6,574 participants in the Scottish Health Survey 2003.

The findings of the study paint a major challenge in terms of health behaviours in Scotland. It showed that only 2.5 per cent of the adult population have one of the five major lifestyle risk factors – cigarette smoking, risky alcohol drinking, physically inactivity, diet low in fruit and vegetables, or overweight. And over half the population (55 per cent) had three or more of these risk factors.

The researchers, writing in the latest edition of the open access journal BMC Public Health, also found a strong association between the presence of several of these risk factors and low income.

Dr Conway said: “Our analysis shows that around two-thirds of the Scottish population is overweight or obese, a similar proportion are not sufficiently physically active, and most people have a poor diet. However, the proportion is not the same for each risk factor.

“The study found the prevalence of multiple behavioural risk factors was high, with 86 per cent of respondents having at least two risk factors; 55 pre cent having three or more risk factors; and nearly 20 per cent having four or five risk factors. Furthermore these risk factors are strongly associated with low socioeconomic circumstances.

“The most important determinants of multiple risk factors were low educational attainment and residence in our most deprived communities.”

However, the researchers caution that, as the behaviours were self-reported, the real situation may be even worse than these figures suggest.

Dr Conway added: “Respondents might tend to give answers that would convey more favourable behaviours.

“This was confirmed for alcohol consumption by an analysis comparing self-reported alcohol intake in the Scottish Health Surveys with alcohol sales estimates, which suggested that surveys may understate alcohol consumption by as much as 50 per cent.”

For more information contact Nicolas White in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email

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