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More men than women meet physical activity guidelines

Health Survey for England also finds rise in probable mental ill health among all age groups

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Nearly two thirds of men (66%) met national aerobic activity guidelines in 2016 compared to 58% of women, according to figures from the Health Survey for England released by NHS Digital.

The Health Survey for England monitors trends in the nation’s health and covers a differing variety of topics each year.

The UK guidelines for aerobic physical activity recommend that adults aged 19 and over should undertake a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week.

The survey found that London had the highest proportion of people aged sixteen or over meeting the guidelines for aerobic activity, at 65%, whereas the West Midlands had the lowest, at 53%. On average, 62% of adults in England met the guidelines.

In the most deprived areas, 50% of people aged sixteen or over met these guidelines in the most deprived areas compared to 68% in the least deprived areas.

While men were more likely to meet the aerobic activity guidelines than women, the survey also showed that on average men were more sedentary than women when not at their paid work, spending an average of 4.8 hours sitting on a weekday and 5.3 hours on a weekend compared to women’s 4.6 weekday hours and 4.9 weekend hours.

The survey also found that the proportion of adults with a high GHQ-12 score, had grown from 15% in 2012 to 19% in 2016. GHQ-12 is a 12-item questionnaire asking the participants about their general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence, and gives an indication of probable mental ill health.

Most age groups showed some increase in probable mental ill health but the largest increases were reported among men aged 16-24 and 25-34 and women aged 16-24. Nine per cent of men in both the 16-24 and 25-34 age brackets had probable mental ill health in 2012 compared to 16% of those aged 16-24 and 18% of those aged 25-34 in 2016. In 2012, 21% of women aged 16-24 had probable mental ill health compared to 28% in 2016.

For the first time, the 2016 survey included questions on liver disease, and it revealed that 1% of all adults reported doctor-diagnosed chronic liver disease. This was most prevalent among those aged 55-64; 3% of these reported doctor-diagnosed chronic liver disease.

Forty-eight per cent of adults reported having taken at least one prescribed medicine in the last week, 24% had taken three or more, and 3% 10 or more.

Among older adults, 82% of those aged 85 and over had taken three or more medicines in the last week, and 13% had taken 10 or more.

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