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Consumption of sugary drinks halved but no reduction in adult obesity in a decade

24 September 2019 | Tags: sugar, Obesity, food, alcohol, smoking, vaping

Sugary soft drink consumption for both adults and children has halved within the last two years, according to the latest Scottish Health Survey

 

  • Mental wellbeing in Scotland at lowest level in a decade
  • One in five single parents have undereaten in the last 12 months due to food insecurity, 13% have run out of food
  • Number of adults that had never smoked regularly or had never smoked at all at record high

Edinburgh, 24.09. 2019 – Sugary soft drink consumption for both adults and children has halved within the last two years, according to the latest Scottish Health Survey published today by the Scottish Centre for Social Research and the Scottish Government.

The findings reveal that the number of Scottish adults who consume sugary soft drinks every day has fallen from 20% in 2016 to 10% in 2018.  An even sharper decline is visible in children aged 2 to 15, with daily consumption dropping from 35% in 2016 to 16% just two years later.

Obesity

The number of Scottish adults who are classified as overweight or obese has stagnated at 64-65% since 2008 while 28% of the population are considered obese. The average adult Body Mass Index (BMI) currently stands at 27.7, up from 27.1 in 2003. Men (68%) are more likely to be overweight including obese than women (63%) but more women (5%) than men (2%) are morbidly obese. The number of people classified as obese or overweight varies significantly by age. 45% of 16 to 24-year olds are overweight- the lowest percentage among all age groups compared with 76% of those aged 65 to 74.  Younger people are also less likely to be obese than older adults with 14% of those aged 16 to 24 in this category. In contrast, obesity rates are highest for those aged 45 to 54 and those aged 65 to 74 (both 36%).

A third (33%) of adults are a healthy weight (BMI of 18.5 to less than 25 kg/m2). Women are more likely than men to be within the healthy weight range (35% compared with 30% respectively).  Almost three-quarters of children (70%) are a healthy weight and 29% are at risk of either being overweight or obese.

Food Insecurity

In 2018, 9% of adults worried about running out of food due to a lack of money or other resources. For the years 2017/2018 combined, this figure rises to 25% among single parents, with about one fifth of this group (21%) saying that they had eaten less than they should in the past 12 months, and 13% saying they had run out of food.  In 2018, 6% of adults in total say they had eaten less than recommended amounts because of money or resource issues and 3% ran out of food in the same time frame. Increasing levels of food insecurity appear to be tied to increasing levels of deprivation with 7% of those living in the most deprived areas having run out of food in the past 12 months. This compares to 1% of those living in the least deprived areas.

Mental health

Mental wellbeing in Scotland is at its lowest since 2008.  The mean wellbeing score for Scottish adults has dropped from 50.0 to 49.4 in the last decade[1].

Men aged 35 to 54 and women aged 16 to 24 are most likely to have low mental wellbeing with average scores of (47.2-47.6 and 48.2 respectively).

People experiencing food insecurity are more likely to report low levels of mental wellbeing with a mean of 42.2 compared with 50.3 of adults not experiencing food insecurity. Lower mental wellbeing scores are strongly associated with deprivation, with scores lowest in the most deprived quintile (47.0) and highest in the least deprived quintile (51.6).  Those who spent 35-49 hours a week providing unpaid care are also more likely to report low levels of wellbeing (44.4 compared to 49.7 for non-carers).

The research also suggests an association between BMI and mental wellbeing, with adults in the ‘healthy weight’ or ‘overweight but not obese’ categories reporting a higher score (50.3) than those in the ‘morbidly obese’ category (47.6).

Alcohol

The survey found no change in average alcohol consumption since 2017, with the average Scot drinking 12.5 units a week.[2] Following the pattern of previous years, men continued to drink almost twice as many units of alcohol a week on average than women (16.1 units compared to 8.9 units) and were less likely to be a non-drinker (13% compared to 19% of women).

While overall figures for drinking at hazardous or harmful levels (consuming more than 14 units of alcohol per week) have declined significantly - from 34% in 2003 to 24% now – strong demographic differences emerge.  Men are twice as likely as women to drink at hazardous or harmful levels (32% compared with 16%), as are people living in the least deprived areas (27%) compared with people living in the most deprived areas (18%). In addition, those living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely (24%) as those living in the least deprived areas (12%) to be non-drinkers.

Smoking & Vaping

The percentage of adults saying they had never smoked regularly or had never smoked at all has increased from 50% in 2003 to 59% in 2018 - the highest level recorded. 19% of Scottish adults are smokers, with a larger proportion of men than women identifying as such (21% and 17% respectively).

As seen in previous years, those aged 25 to 54 years have the highest smoking prevalence (22-24%). This compares to about a fifth (19%) of those aged 16 to 24, 16% of those aged 55 to 64, 13% of those aged 65 to 74 and 9% of those aged 75 and over. People in the most deprived areas were around three times as likely (32%) to smoke than those living in less deprived areas (9%).

When looking at those attempting to stop smoking, most people (59%) say they had not used any Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or other products to achieve this. 27% of respondents had opted for nicotine gum, nicotine patches, a nasal spray/nicotine inhaler or lozenges/microtabs and 51% of these reported they had helped them to successfully stop smoking for a month or more. Around a fifth (18%) had used an electronic cigarette/vaping device with 59% of these reporting it had helped them to stop smoking for at least a month. 5% had used Champix/Valenicline or Zyban/Bupropian with 67% saying it helped them to stop smoking for a month or more.  

7% of Scots are current e-cigarette users, a figure that has remained stable since 2015 while over four fifths (82%) have never used e-cigarettes. The prevalence of e-cigarette use was highest among the middle age groups (8-11% among those aged 25 to 54) and lower for the youngest (5% among those aged 16 to 24) and older adults (1-6% for those aged 55 and over).

Joanne McLean, Research Director of the Scottish Health Survey at ScotCen Social Research said“It’s promising to see a strong decline in national sugary drink consumption. However, overall, there has been little or no improvement in many other vital areas, including obesity, smoking and food insecurity and we are yet to see a positive impact of minimum unit pricing on alcohol consumption levels. 

What is particularly worrying is that in 2018 we have seen the lowest levels of mental health and wellbeing since 2003, with young and middle-aged people most likely to experience poor mental health across all age groups. Poor mental health and wellbeing is clearly associated with poverty and food insecurity, as well as other factors including obesity and unpaid caring responsibilities.  We also continue to see adults in the most deprived areas being 3 times more likely to smoke than those in the least deprived areas.

Studies like the Scottish Health Survey are crucial to provide us with an accurate picture of the nation’s health but also serve as compelling evidence that there is still a lot to be done. We hope that this research will raise awareness among wider society and continue to shape policy priorities.”



[1] Assessed by the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) which is based on a questionnaire that looks at indicators such as optimism, energy and self-acceptance, the WEMWBS measures mental wellbeing on a scale from 14 (lowest) to 70 (highest).

[2] below the recommended government alcohol consumption guidelines of 14 units per week.