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Poor diet 'a key cause of early death'

21 September 2015 09:01

Smoking is still a major killer in the UK

Smoking is still a major killer in the UK

Life expectancy is rising, but poor diets and smoking are the leading causes of premature death, a study shows.

Research for Public Health England (PHE) found that 40% of the NHS's workload is caused by illnesses that could be prevented.

An unhealthy diet accounts for 10.8% of all diseases, while tobacco is responsible for 10.7%.

People living longer

The study, published in The Lancet, shows that average life expectancy in England has risen from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.3 years in 2013.

A reduction in the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some cancers over this period means that people in England can expect to live longer. This is despite an increase in deaths from liver disease.

Travel plans

With life expectancy rising, an increasing number of older people are travelling the world in their retirement. Seniors travel insurance caters especially for the over-60s.

The growing older population also means that conditions linked with old age such as dementia, arthritis, back pain and hearing and vision loss are more common, but older people can get tailored medical cover when they go abroad.

Life expectancy around the world

PHE Professor John Newton and his team analysed patterns of death and illness in England.

They then calculated the links of preventable risk factors, and ranked England compared with 14 EU countries plus the USA, Australia, Canada and Norway.

The gains in life expectancy were found to be greater for men than women.

Men in England can expect to live an extra 6.4 years to reach an average age of 79.5, putting them level with Finnish people but behind the expected lifespan of men from Luxembourg.

For women in England, the average life expectancy increased by 4.4 years to 83.2, which still placed them ahead of all other nations surveyed except Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal.

The researchers used data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2013.

Co-author Dr Adam Briggs says that, although life expectancy is increasing across England, large inequalities still remain.