June 10, 2010
Scots Have Bad Health Habits

Almostr everyone in Scotland finds some way to be unhealthy.

Almost the entire adult population of Scotland (97.5%) are likely to be either cigarette smokers, heavy drinkers, physically inactive, overweight or have a poor diet. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health also found a strong association between the presence of several of these risk factors and low income.

I'm thinking we need some sort of international contest in unhealthy living. Cities could compete for worst lifestyles from the standpoint of best health practices. Who smokes the most? Who drinks the most alcohol? Which people eat the least in vegetables and fruits and the most junk food?

Most Scottish people have poor diets. Two thirds are overweight or obese.

David Conway, from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, worked with a team of researchers to study data from 6574 participants in the Scottish Health Survey 2003. He 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 – it is just that it is not the same majority for each factor. The most important determinants of multiple risk factors were low educational attainment and residence in our most deprived communities".

The least educated have the worst diets. Not surprising. People with low intelligence aren't smart enough to remember and understand what foods they ought to eat or avoid. Higher intelligence has been found to be positively correlated with life expectancy in all Scottish people born in 1921. Also see Batty, G. D., Deary, I. J., & Gottfredson, L. S. (2007). Pre-morbid (early life) IQ and later mortality risk: Systematic review. Annals of Epidemiology.

55% of the Scots have 3 or more of the 5 risk factors.

The prevalence of multiple behavioural risk factors was high, with 86% having at least two risk factors; 55% having three or more risk factors; and nearly 20% having four or all five risk factors. Furthermore these risk factors are strongly associated with low socio-economic circumstances. The researchers caution that, as the behaviours were self-reported, the real situation may be even worse than these figures suggest. According to Conway, "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%".

The use of heavy equipment and automation to do what were previously jobs performed with lots of human muscle. The success of industrialized countries probably widens the gap between best and worst health practices in a society. The increased availability of highly refined and processed foods poses a bigger health threat to poorer people who aren't smart enough to know to avoid junk foods. We did not evolve for industrial civilization and it is not surprising to me that so many people make bad decisions about what to eat or how to live as the choices they face become increasingly unlike what our distant ancestors had.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 10 10:26 PM  Aging Lifestyle Studies


Comments
Fat Man said at June 10, 2010 10:46 PM:

NHS and the Dole.

Mike said at June 11, 2010 3:56 AM:

This explains to some extent why Glasgow and Scotland's industrial regions have a lower life expectancy compared to the rest of the UK.

Skip to 37min

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3412059405180267912#

Black Death said at June 11, 2010 8:28 AM:

"NHS and the Dole"

....

Probably true. I've seen the same thing among unionized workers here in Michigan. Most of them have expensive first-dollar health insurance, provided by their employers (such as GM and Chrysler - your tax dollars at work!). This gives them immediate access to any sort of high-tech health care they want - unlike the UK, no waiting lists. These workers (and their families) are almost uniformly overweight. They smoke, drink too much, don't exercise and eat lots of junk food. Why should they care? If they get sick, they have insurance. If they need time off from work, they get their full salaries. If they become disabled, they get generous payouts. The unions and the employers (who jointly bear the costs) have been blathering a lot lately about healthy life styles, but just talking about it won't make a difference. Until the workers have a financial stake in being healthy, nothing will change.

Nick G said at June 11, 2010 9:41 AM:

Until the workers have a financial stake in being healthy, nothing will change.

That's absurd. That suggests that these workers have made a rational decision to be unhealthy, based on the availability of healthcare. If that were so, the infinitely more sensible choice would be better health, which can never be achieved by medical interventions after the fact.

No, Detroit's assembly line workers may get good pay, but they are uneducated, and making bad choices like poor, uneducated people everywhere.

Scots-IrishYank. said at June 11, 2010 11:36 AM:

The conclusion is that the less bright make poorer choices. Could this mean that the brighter Scots got out to England and America, leaving the less cabable behind? Don't hear too much in recent times about the likes of Adam Smith or David Hume emanating from Scotland.

eh_nony_mouse said at June 11, 2010 11:47 AM:

Scots are "People with low intelligence aren't smart enough to remember and understand ..."

Does that explain why they are so overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian? Or is it they just hate Jews?

tom swift said at June 11, 2010 11:47 AM:

The facile equation of intelligence and education seems like a weak point in the chain of logic presented here. I think we all know far too many "educated" people who are dumber'n sticks.

Neal said at June 11, 2010 11:50 AM:

No, Nick G, Black Death's point is not that "these workers have made a rational decision to be unhealthy." (BTW, the unionized workers he refers to are not poor in neither a relative nor absolute sense, nor are they uniformly uneducated.)Absent a financial incentive to do otherwise they have failed to make a rational choice to adopt healthy habits.

BW said at June 11, 2010 12:02 PM:

Sorry, I don't buy it. Burns presents a much healthier picture of haggis eaters:

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o 'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Neal said at June 11, 2010 12:05 PM:

The Scots as a whole are a truculent and rebellious lot, and they have been so for centuries. Some of their habits and attitudes derive from sheer cussedness. When authority says cut out tobacco and alcohol and eat your greens, the average Scot gets a reflexive urge for Rothmans, Johnnie Walker and a deep fried Mars bar. Now if the brains at the NHS were really as smart as they think they are they’d apply a little reverse psychology.

willis said at June 11, 2010 12:18 PM:

"No, Detroit's assembly line workers may get good pay, but they are uneducated, and making bad choices like poor, uneducated people everywhere"

I don't believe that lack of education leads to poverty and poor life-style choices. I believe emotional immaturity leads to all of these results independently. The most pronounced trait of emotional immaturity is the inability to defer gratification. People with this trait prefer to play and watch tv as children rather than endure the less enjoyable task of study that will only produce gratification in the future. The same trait leads to similar choices in nutritional habits and financial management. Continuously making the easier but more destructive choices inevitably leads to failure in education, careers, and well-being. Such people tend to create domestic environments that produce the same results in their children.

Javert said at June 11, 2010 12:42 PM:

The remaining 2.5% will die too. But they will not realize they need a diaper change.

Nick G said at June 11, 2010 1:02 PM:

Neal,

Assembly line workers may not all be uneducated, but they certainly mostly are.

.)Absent a financial incentive to do otherwise they have failed to make a rational choice to adopt healthy habits.

Again, that's absurd. That suggests that if they didn't have good healthcare they would make a rational choice to adopt healthy habits. IOW, that they made a rational calculation that they could do without healthy habits because they have good access to doctors.

Willis,

You're suggesting that assembly line workers have failed in life. Most of them are the children or grand-children of people who were sharecroppers in the South 70 years ago. Sharecroppers tended to have no education or assets (heck, most couldn't read), so I think the children/grandchildren have done pretty well for themselves.

Neal said at June 11, 2010 1:23 PM:

Nick G.

"... if they didn't have good healthcare they would make a rational choice to adopt healthy habits."

Bogus. Nobody but you has made this argument. Besides, your claim is a non sequitur. Black Death's argument is not about health care, good or bad, it's about economic incentive and in this case the lack of it. If your health insurance won't payout for lung cancer if you are a smoker, then you have an economic incentive to give up smoking whether or not you agree that smoking and cancer are causally related. Similarly if your health insurance pays cancer treatment regardless of your use or non-use of tobacco, then you have no ECONOMIC incentive to quit.

David said at June 11, 2010 1:35 PM:

The remaining 2.5% will die too. But they will not realize they need a diaper change.

Wins the thread.

dave in dallas said at June 11, 2010 1:55 PM:

There isn't anyone stupid enough not to know that fresh veggies and less processed sugar/white flour would be good for them. There isn't anyone stupid enough not to know a 'balanced diet' and staying off sweets is better for them.

This is entirely about motivation and selfishness, not at all about 'raising awareness' and such.

When people eat badly, they're being either lazy or selfish or careless. End of story. Human nature. Incentives are needed, but taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for them, just as they shouldn't have to pay for medical care for people who don't take care of themselves.

At some point human beings have responsibility for themselves, and no amount of wrangling can change that.

Spartacus said at June 11, 2010 2:06 PM:

In every scientific test of which I am aware your body cannot tell the difference between refined sugars and fructose etc... It breaks them all down to the same intermediate products. SO to say that refined foods are a problem is simply not correct. Refined foods are fortified and calorie rich which means a person's needs can be met for the least amount of money and the most amount of taste.

Maybe the intelligent ones are the people who realize that life is not a contest to see who can live the longest but rather who can live the best and enjoy their lives the most? Choking down twigs and grass clippings while toiling hardily in the fields may be good for you but it is not a choice that is a given for any rational or intelligent person to make.

In other words, get down off your high horse and stop presuming that everyone has the same goals and should act the same way. Socialism is all the rage now and individual freedom is seen as something to be suppressed but the end game to this sort of talk is a diet prescribed for us by our "betters." Indeed North Korea would probably do very well by the criteria put forth above... calorie restriction coupled with strenuous labor being the most efficient means of extending life. If the execution of political prisoners didn't drag the average life expectancy down so much it would be a veritable paradise!

Now take to your cupboards and pantries and eat what you like! You have nothing to lose but your life and no amount of broccoli will allow you to keep it in the end.

willis said at June 11, 2010 2:25 PM:

"You're suggesting that assembly line workers have failed in life. Most of them are the children or grand-children of people who were sharecroppers in the South 70 years ago. Sharecroppers tended to have no education or assets (heck, most couldn't read), so I think the children/grandchildren have done pretty well for themselves."

Neal, what are you talking about. I did not suggest that assembly line worker have failed in life. I quoted that statement from someone else and put quote marks around it. My point is that people who fail for any reason whether in finance, relationships, or education generally do so because they are not willing to make the sacrifice to succeed. Incidentally, sharecropping here in the South hasn't been a significant source of employment for quite a long time. Most were black and when they migrated North to gain those plum jobs in the automotive industry, they found themselves blocked by white unions.

Jimmy J. said at June 11, 2010 3:03 PM:

Neal said, "The Scots as a whole are a truculent and rebellious lot, and they have been so for centuries. Some of their habits and attitudes derive from sheer cussedness. When authority says cut out tobacco and alcohol and eat your greens, the average Scot gets a reflexive urge for Rothmans, Johnnie Walker and a deep fried Mars bar."
As a Scotch-Irishman, I'll drink to that and chase it with a Mars bar. Don't know why but when people try to push me one way, I want to push the other - even when it's not necessarily good for me. Damn genes!

Mike said at June 11, 2010 5:10 PM:

No eh_nony_mouse. We support the Palestinians and Israelis for elementary moral reasons. In 1948 British anti-Semites in Parliament (who believed the best way to get rid of all the Jews was to send them off to Palestine) and Zionists deported 800,000 Palestinians from their land. So what made you such a racist?

Bruce said at June 11, 2010 6:36 PM:

"Jimmy J. said at June 11, 2010 3:03 PM:
....As a Scotch-Irishman, I'll drink to that and chase it with a Mars bar. Don't know why but when people try to push me one way, I want to push the other - even when it's not necessarily good for me. Damn genes!"

As a full-blooded ancestral Scot I agree. My parents and grandparents were exactly the same way as I am now and have been all my life. I don't take kindly to be pushed around and neither did they. Probably one of the reasons Scots and Brits don't get along very well. Also why I've never cottoned to bullies. Scots tend to be classic Type A personalities.

Jess said at June 11, 2010 7:12 PM:

First of all the swine flu as if its not bad enough that this sort of flu is killing thousands of people in the uk scotland has NOT to receive any treatment for it even though there are 500 calls a day being made from scotland by people with the virus. and now the uk is infected by diseased and poisoned chipmunks from france. that no one has a cure for so basically were all f***ed.

Sardondi said at June 11, 2010 9:04 PM:

Some form of National Health, assisted housing, unemployment benefits and an extensive dole system have been in place for, what, two generations? So since Granny's day the government has had a significant input if not outright control of virtually all aspects of the basics of survival in Scotland. And yet we now hear that some 97% of Scots are "unhealthy". And specifically I see the pronouncement that "(p)eople with low intelligence aren't smart enough to remember and understand what foods they ought to eat or avoid." Wow. And we all know what the official response will be to this turn of events, don't we? It will be declared a national emergency; all the talking head idiots will cluck and look serious while agreeing with each other that Something Must Be Done; and the decision will be to give government even more control over the average Scot's life than the shocking amount already ceded.

What fun the future holds! Want some nice, hot chips, fresh from the deep fryer? Oh no, sorry, but the local chip shop won't serve anyone with a BMI over a set figure (ridiculously low of course), because it will be assessed a tax penalty if the Government Caloric Inspectors determine that persons on the Banned List were served. (You do realize that Big Brother already has enough data right now to issue a national list of Scots who are fat, and who are to be included on a "No Serve List" for all officially unapproved eating establishments, don't you?)

Well, then how about a dram at the local, eh? Not so fast, mate: the silicon chip in your national I.D. card will notify the pub's cash register immediately upon your entry that you are to remain dry eternally, because the NHS has determined you have "unhealthy" alcohol habits and put you on the "Alcohol Abuser" databank.

Dammit, we'll have to settle for some pipe tobacco. Och, but you must be joking, Jock! Look, you can get pot at any chemist, but you'd better have a longtime tobacco connection if you ever want to puff Virginia's finest ever again. And all because that nice, young med student who took your medical information last year when you sliced your finger open chopping cabbage, felt he had a duty to leave a note in your NHS permanent file that you were a "user of tobacco" because he smelled smoke on your clothes...the nosy little prig. See, as a government servant, he saw his duty as being primarily to the government, and any duty to you as a medical care provider was only secondary.

Dear, sweet Christ! Do we not see what happens when we let the government take care of everything for us? Everything became the government's business! When we stopped paying the bills, we became insignificant, easy to be ignored. Just 30 years ago the very idea that some priggish government official would dream of preaching that people were too fat, ate poorly or smoked and drank too much would have put his very life at risk for sticking his nose where it had no business.

But not today. Because these kind of intrusions are just the flip side of the coin. Hope you enjoy your cradle-to-grave government care - all it really means is that you stay in that cradle your entire life; having Mummy PM and Daddy Ministry giving you everything, but telling you what you can and can't have, when you can have it, and what you can do with it.

bbartlog said at June 13, 2010 11:16 AM:

'There isn't anyone stupid enough not to know that fresh veggies and less processed sugar/white flour would be good for them.'

It doesn't sound like you actually know stupid people. It's easy if you're in college or a professional environment to calibrate your notion of 'stupid' to correspond to someone who is actually about average, like a secretary who is confounded in trying to use Excel or someone who needs help with algebra. The real stupid people are excluded from these environments by their mental incapacity. I've had neighbors who didn't know what compost was and who needed help filling out driver's license renewal forms. And they weren't even especially stupid inasfar as they were at least able to maintain households of their own.

'In every scientific test of which I am aware your body cannot tell the difference between refined sugars and fructose etc... It breaks them all down to the same intermediate products.'

Hit up Google Scholar some more, then. In tests done with rats it appears that sucrose triggers a satiation response in a way that high fructose corn syrup does not, so that if you feed some rats water+HFCS and others water+sucrose the corn syrup rats gain quite a bit more weight due to eating more. The sucrose-versus-HFCS debate is actually quite interesting, because it sure *does* look at first blush as if they're chemically identical once the sucrose is hydrolyzed; and yet actual epidemiology (rat feeding studies) suggest that there must be some difference, since the HFCS fed rats are not as healthy. My personal pet theory is that the process of manufacturing HFCS (which involves high temperatures and other chemically interesting conditions) must create small quantities of poorly characterized impurities which contaminate the HFCS.

Sione said at June 14, 2010 12:54 PM:

Looks like the Scots experiment with nationalised healthcare and nationalised education has generated unwelcome results. How will the ninny statists respond? Why, with more regulations and nationalisations of course. After all, they think they know better than everyone. They reckon they know how to lead other people's lives better than the people who actually live them.

Here is what they don't want to admit. Not all people evaluate risk, reward, sacrifice, wealth, pleasure, gain, pain and loss in the same way. People have different values from each other. Some enjoy the pleasure of a quiet puff on a Cuban cigar and a quaff of single-malt far more than the concern that such things MAY be detrimental to "living the healthy life-style." This is especially so when the definition and prescription of the healthy life style is some arbitrary scientistic concoction dreamed up by a half-dead academic or political crock pot. Best to leave people alone to make their own decisions and reap the consequences of their own actions.

Sione

Christine said at October 25, 2010 10:34 AM:

Could someone straighten me out?? I've written to a married gal in Scotland for over 10 years. They live FREE off the government's health care system - but are constantly on death's door. She is obese; cannot walk; diabetic; using 3 different insulins (which is against the law in the US); going blind in one eye and has NO laser surgery available to her; her left foot might be amputated; her husband has pneumonia; a blood clot in one lung; went to the hospital and was turned away due to lack of beds; raging fevers and rashes. Every single time she emails me, her and husband have a new ailment. I don't know whether I should believe her or not.

Diane Johnson said at November 25, 2011 6:19 AM:

Unfortunately bad health habits appear to a very high percent of the world's population. Unhealthy meals, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are the worst habits that people may have. I work at drug rehab NC and I have a lot of patients who became addicted of various substances. The reasons why they developed addiction are: stress, family conflicts, lack of money, overweight complex and so on. Most of them became depressed and started taking different drugs or drinking alcohol in order to forget their trauma. There should be organized more campaigns in order to support people and to provide them education about what means a healthy life.

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