By Daniel Hunter

A study into the health of the UK’s working population examined the four ‘proximate’ causes of preventable ill health: poor nutrition, lack of exercise, alcohol excess and smoking, and found that we needed to do more to reduce the risks of lifestyle-related illnesses.

Of the 16,808 people studied, one in five men (20 per cent) said they never eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, while women appeared to be more aware of the importance of a balanced diet, with a lower 15 per cent who admitted that they didn’t ever consume the recommended portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

Being active and physically fit has enormous health and wellbeing benefits but research by The Health Insurance Group and Wellbeing People reported that almost one in five (19 per cent) men and one in four (24 per cent) women were not exercising at all.

Brett Hill, commercial director, The Health Insurance Group said: “The report shows just how much more needs to be done to get the nation’s workers healthier and happier.”

“As defined by the World Health Organisation, a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables a day can lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Only 18 per cent of men are always getting their 5-a-day. Although women fair slightly better with 23 per cent always getting their 5-a-day, there is a worrying group that never eat enough fruit and veg.”

Ben McGannan, managing director Wellbeing People concluded, "This important study, unsurprisingly, reveals that some of us are not always eating the right things, some are drinking too much and many are not getting enough exercise. The effect will be to drive up the risk of lifestyle-related illnesses, which costs the taxpayer millions of pounds. These issues can be tackled effectively not only by education through government schemes and the NHS but also by employers, who have a role to play in helping improve the health and well-being of its workers.”

Continued McGannan, “There is a growing body of evidence that shows that the financial benefits enjoyed by organisations that implement wellbeing programmes include reduced sickness absence, improved productivity and reduced staff turnover. Health is the responsibility of every business and employers will benefit from improving the health of the people that work for them.“