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UK Ranked as One of the Unhealthiest Western European Nations, Study Reports

Update Date: Mar 06, 2013 10:24 AM EST

The United Kingdom is known for its rigorous health campaigns and over 60 years of accessible heath care. However, due to a recent finding, these factors seem to have little effect on the residents' lifestyles and dietary habits. A new study that was published in the journal, Lancet discovered that the UK ranked really poorly in terms of health and life expectancy when compared to other western European nations. The study gives insight as to what factors might be negatively influencing UK's numbers.

The study was headed by Dr. Christopher Murray from the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Murray and his international team of researchers looked at the rate of sickness and death in a total of 19 nations that included the United States, Australia and Canada, the three only non-western European countries. The numbers were from 1990 to 2010 and the researchers found that the UK fared unexpectedly poorly in terms of health. Dr. Murray concluded that there is a lot of underlying health risks that the UK may not have addressed yet, which would explain why some of the numbers are rising instead of falling in the UK.

One of the categories that the researchers used to rank the nations was healthy life expectancy, which is the number of years a person lives without major illnesses or diseases. The UK ranked 12th on this list with the life expectancy of 68.6 years. Spain took the first spot with 70.9 years, Australia came in third with 70.1 and Canada was fifth with 69.6. The U.S. ranked 17th with the healthy life expectancy at 67.9 and Finland came in last at 67.3. Another category that the UK did poorly in was the number of years lost due to health complications. The UK ranked 18th overall and had the worst numbers for respiratory infections, preterm birth complications, and breast cancer. Italy had the lowest rates of respiratory infections. Norway had the least preterm birth complications and Sweden had the lowest mortality rate for breast cancer.

The UK's numbers for premature deaths remained constant for people between the ages of 20-54. However, the number of deaths due to drug and alcohol use for this age group rose. A recent study reported that UK residents tended to dramatically underestimate their alcohol intake (Study Reveals People Often Underestimate Their Alcohol Consumption), which could be a contributing factor to this rising statistic. The percentage of people suffering from cirrhosis, liver disease rose by 65 percent within the past 20 years. In addition, although heart disease, strokes, and cancer are common killers in these western nations, the UK suffered from them more so than the other nations did.

This study pinpoints the areas that the UK might need to work on in improving the numbers. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the research. 

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