Lack of knowledge puts Nation’s health at risk
21 June 2016
A lack of knowledge about how to reduce the chances of developing serious illnesses is putting the nation’s health at risk at a time when there’s an increase in diagnoses of these illnesses, according to new research released today by Royal London, the UK’s largest mutual life, pensions and investment company. Even people who have had direct experience of a serious illness, through a loved one or friend, say they aren’t taking steps to reduce the risk of developing them because they don’t know what to do or don’t believe there is anything they can do.
According to the research almost nine in ten people in the UK (85%) know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis or a stroke. Yet when those who know someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness were asked about taking action the majority (70%) have not taken steps to reduce their chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s; more than half haven’t taken steps to reduce the chances of suffering a stroke (58%), cancer (56%) and diabetes (56%); and more than two fifths (42%) haven’t taken any steps against heart disease.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s were the illnesses these respondents were least confident of knowing how to reduce their risks of developing, with 59% stating they don’t know how to or don’t think there is anything they can do, followed by cancer (51%), stroke (44%), heart disease (25%) and diabetes (25%).
Trisha Macnair, GP expert, comments:
“There is so much that people can do to stay healthy and help prevent serious illness. And yet, just as this research shows, we find that again and again people don't take action. They may have a vague idea of a few things they should be addressing, but even if they witness a loved-one battling with illness, this is often still not enough to motivate them to protect themselves. Motivation lies at the heart of this – the motivation to explore health issues and understand what challenges lie ahead, the motivation to find ways to improve your lifestyle.”
Statistics show the number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s in the UK is on the increase1, up 16% between 2012 and 2014. Royal London’s research shows that many people are not taking steps to reduce their risks of developing these conditions2.
Heart disease was the illness where those who had experience of it were most likely to have taken action to help reduce their own chances of getting it (55%) and this group were least likely to say they did not know how to do so (11%). Deaths caused by disease of the circulatory system in the UK were down 4.1% from 2012 to 20143.
Debbie Kennedy, Head of Protection for Royal London Intermediary, said:
“Our findings suggest that greater knowledge and understanding would help people take active steps to reduce the risks of developing a serious illness. Among other factors, the findings also show a potential link between people taking action against developing illnesses and the instances of these illnesses falling, making a strong case for the nation to start taking some simple steps to lead a healthier lifestyle.”
The research also found that as people get older, they are more likely to have taken preventative action. People aged 55 and over who knew someone who had experience of the conditions included in the study are the most likely to have taken steps to reduce their chances of developing any of these conditions. Those aged 25-34 and 35-44 are the groups the least likely to have taken steps to reduce their chances of developing certain conditions4.
Trisha Macnair continues:
“Younger people especially tend to feel invincible and don't want to dwell on health issues or imagine they might one day develop a chronic illness. They have other more exciting things to focus on so they push health to the back of their mind. People of all ages are reluctant to make the effort to be more active, control unhealthy habits such as alcohol or smoking, or look more carefully at their diet – they put this off until disaster strikes and forces them to rethink. And even then they often don't. But every little step can make a difference."
- ENDS -
For further information please contact:
020 7506 6719
Notes to editors:
1 British Heart Foundation: Cardiovascular disease statistics 2015; Cardiovascular disease statistics 2014 - Deaths by cause, by gender and age, United Kingdom 2012 and Deaths by cause, by gender and age, United Kingdom 2014.
2 70% of people who have had second hand experience of dementia / Alzheimer’s and 56% of those who know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer have not taken steps to reduce their chances of developing them.
3 British Heart Foundation: Cardiovascular disease statistics 2015; Cardiovascular disease statistics 2014 - Deaths by cause, by gender and age, United Kingdom 2012 and Deaths by cause, by gender and age, United Kingdom 2014.
4 People aged 55 and over are the most likely to have taken steps to reduce their chances of developing all the conditions questioned (heart disease – 67%, stroke – 57%, diabetes – 53%, cancer – 47%, dementia /Alzheimer’s – 32%); People aged 35-44 are the least likely to have taken steps to reduce their chances of developing dementia /Alzheimer’s (13%); People aged 25-34 are the least likely to have taken steps to reduce their chances of developing cancer – 30%, diabetes – 28%, and stroke – 17%.
About the research: Royal London commissioned YouGov. They surveyed 2,093 adults about their lifestyles and views on healthy living as well as their experiences of some critical illnesses (including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia / Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis). Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th April 2016. The research is representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
About Royal London:
Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and Investment Company in the UK, with Group funds under management of £87.9 billion. Group businesses provide around 9.1 million policies and employ 3,051 people. (Figures quoted are as at 31 March 2015).