Toxic Britain: Binge drinking, smoking and drug taking means we'll suffer more years of ill health than Romania and Thailand Average life expectancy has risen but we are living longer with disabilitySoaring use of drink and drugs means many 20-54 year-olds will die early
Smoking is top reason for early death, followed by high blood pressureBiggest killers overall are heart disease, stroke and lung cancer

Anna Hodgekiss


10:31 GMT, 5 March 2013



10:54 GMT, 5 March 2013

Britons' toxic lifestyles mean that a rising number of young people are dying prematurely from alcohol and drug abuse – and the current generation is set to suffer more years of debilitating illness in old age compared to the last.

The alarming report shows that despite
huge advances in cancer screening, immunisations and a smoking ban, life expectancy is not increasing as rapidly in Briton compared to other nations.

Those aged between 20 and 54 in the UK are also more likely to spend longer suffering from physical or mental illness than adults in most other developed countries, such as the U.S, Australia and Canada.


Living with ill health: The graph shows the average number of years we live with ill-health as a result of various risk factors

Living with ill health: The graph shows the average number of years we live with ill-health as a result of various risk factors

Researchers who compared Britain's health performance since 1990 with 14 European Union countries plus Australia, Canada, Norway and the United States said its pace of decline in premature death was 'persistently and significantly' behind the average – a finding they described as 'startling'.

The study, published in The Lancet, found that smoking was the top reason for an early death in the UK, accounting for 12 per cent, followed by high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, alcohol and poor diet.

Overall, Britain's eight
leading causes of death have changed little in the last 20 years, with
heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, lung
cancer and lower respiratory infections remaining as the top five.

There was a dramatic growth in
problems linked to drugs and alcohol, the report found. They rose from the 32nd and
43rd most common cause of death respectively in 1990 to to sixth and 18th place in 2010. In adults aged 20-54, these were two of the the key contributing factors for early death.

Deaths from cirrhosis of the liver – caused by alcohol abuse and/or obesity – rose by 65 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

has also been a startling increase Alzheimer's disease – which rose
from 24th to 10th place as the population ages and diagnosis improves.

Then and now: Top causes of death

However, the good news is that Britain today has
significantly lower premature death rates from diabetes, road injuries,
liver cancer and chronic kidney disease on average than other nations.

While overall life expectancy has actually risen in the UK, by an average of 4.2 years to 79.9 years, the trend masks worrying declines when matched against other nations with similar levels of health care, it is claimed.

Toxic lifestyles: Experts warn that more young people are dying early from alcohol and drug abuse

Toxic lifestyles: Experts warn that more young people are dying early from alcohol and drug abuse

For while we are living longer, our health is being destroyed by conditions such as depression and back pain.

Those in 54 other countries, including
Mexico, Romania and Thailand, are less likely to lose as many years of
their life to disability as people in the UK, the report found.

Spain topped the league, where residents can expect 70.9 years of life before disease and disability and take their toll.

Italy came second,with 70.2 years of life, then Australia, with 70.1 years. This fell to 68.6 for the UK.

Chris Murray, who led the Global Burden of Diseases study, said
Britain's poor performance was partly due to dramatic increases in
Alzheimer's disease and in drug and alcohol abuse problems, and to a
failure to tackle leading killers such as heart disease, strokes and
lung diseases.

'Concerted action is urgently needed,' said Dr Murray, director of the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, who worked with Murray on the study, said the findings were 'both a wake-up call and an opportunity'.

'While it's encouraging that overall the health of the UK has improved substantially since the last report the pace of improvement is not enough,' he said in a statement.

Commenting on the findings, Edmund Jessop from the UK Faculty of Public Health in London, said there was 'plenty of room for bold action by politicians'.

He said ministers should introduce tighter health policies such as plain packaging for cigarettes, a minimum price for alcohol, a ban on trans fats, improved control of hypertension and a greater focus on psychiatric disorders.

'Alternatively, the UK can continue to languish at the bottom of European league tables,' he said.