Sleep duration and TV viewing time linked to higher death risk, especially in poorer areas

People living in deprived areas are more vulnerable to the effects of unhealthy lifestyles, including previously unrecognised risk factors such as short or long sleep duration and long TV viewing time.

In a new study led by the University of Glasgow and published today in The Lancet Public Health, researchers have shown that the association between an unhealthy lifestyle and death is stronger in the more deprived groups.

The study analysed data from 328,594 adult participants’ in UK Biobank, to examine the effects of previously-studied unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, alcohol, diet and a lack of physical activity alongside newer risk factors of sleep duration and TV viewing time.

The researchers found that these unhealthy behaviours were associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality and that those living in areas of deprivation were at even greater risk of harm compared with people in more affluent areas. This suggests deprived populations are more vulnerable to the effects of a wider range of unhealthy lifestyle factors than previously recognised.

Authors of the study are now calling for a fundamental shift in government policy to reverse austerity and reduce poverty, which they consider to be a key driver of the disproportionate harm reported in their work. They also call for more individual-level as well as public health-level interventions that address this wider range of emerging lifestyle factors, with a focus on interventions that provide additional support in deprived areas.

Frances Mair, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing and lead author of the study, said: “This study is the first to highlight the disproportionate risk associated with a broad range of unhealthy lifestyle factors amongst more deprived socioeconomic groups. If this association is causal, it suggests that policies to improve a broader range of lifestyle factors amongst these groups could lead to substantial improvements in health outcomes.”

First author Dr Hamish Foster stated that “Based on the increased vulnerability seen in this study, deprived populations would continue to suffer worse outcomes even if there are similar levels of unhealthy lifestyle factors that are seen in more affluent populations. This clearly strengthens the arguments for government policies that tackle the up-stream causes of ill-health, aim to reduce poverty and for health policies that offer increased support in areas of deprivation.”

The paper ‘The effect of socioeconomic deprivation on the association between an extended measurement of unhealthy lifestyle factors and health outcomes: a prospective analysis of the UK Biobank cohort’ is published in The Lancet Public Health.

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First published: 20 November 2018