Statistics from the 2013 Health Survey for England were published this week. The findings paint an interesting picture of the health and habits of the population and include data on prescribed medicines, weight and obesity, fruit and veg consumption, smoking, end of life care, eye care and the relationship between shift work and health.

The Health Survey for England was first carried out in 1994 by the Joint Health Surveys Unit of NatCen Social Research and the Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL (University College London). In total, 8,795 adults and 2,185 children were interviewed in 2013.

Prescribed medicines
The overall cost of medicines in England, including those used in hospitals, exceeded £15 billion in 2013. On average, 18.7 prescription items were dispensed per person over the year.

43 percent of men and 50 percent of women reported that they had taken at least one prescribed medicine in the last week. Older participants were more likely to have taken three or more prescribed medicines, with more than half of participants aged 65-74 and more than 70 percent of those aged 75 and over saying they had taken at least three in the past week.

The most popular prescribed drugs were statins taken to lower cholesterol, pain medication and antidepressants. Men are more likely to take statins, with over 50 percent of men over 65 regularly taking them. Twice as many women (11 percent) as men (5.5 percent) take antidepressants. Middle-aged women are the heaviest users of antidepressants with 16 percent of 45 to 64 year olds taking them.

Weight and obesity
26 percent of men and 24 percent of women were obese in 2013, which is approximately a quarter of the population. 41 percent of men and 33 percent of women were classified as overweight but not obese.

Obesity correlated strongly with age, rising throughout middle age and then decreasing in the oldest age groups.

Fruit and vegetable consumption
Daily fruit and vegetable consumption is still below the recommended 5 portions, with women eating more fruit and veg than men. Women consumed, on average, 3.7 portions per day compared with 3.5 for men. Only 28 percent of women ate five or more portions per day compared with 25 percent of men.

Results show that those on higher incomes eat more fruit and veg, with averages of 3.9 portions for men and 4.3 portions for women in the highest income group and 2.9 portions and 3.2 portions respectively in the lowest income group.

Smoking habits
24 percent of men and 17 percent of women reported that they were current smokers. Smoking was highest among 25-34 year olds (37 percent of men and 24 percent of women).

3 percent of adults were currently using e-cigarettes. Current smokers were more likely than non-smokers or ex-smokers to have ever used e-cigarettes, with 29 percent of smokers and 6 percent of those who had quit saying that they had used an e-cigarette. Only 1 percent of people who had never smoked said that they had used them, putting to rest propagated fears that e-cigarettes may be acting as a gateway drug to real cigarettes for non-smokers.

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