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Ill health costs Britain 100 billion pounds per year—the equivalent of 175 million wasted work days—according to a report commissioned by Dame Carol Black, the national director for health and work.
“For most people their work is a key factor in their self-worth, family esteem and identity,” she said in a news report by the BBC.
The commissioned report encouraged businesses to “do more to facilitate flexible working, such as shorter working weeks or a change of duties” to more efficiently help ill staff return to work. It also encouraged employers to “establish their own occupational health and rehabilitation teams and promote healthy lifestyles through subsidized gym membership and encouraging staff to walk and cycle to work.”
In England, National Statistics reported that 22.3% of men and 23% of women are obese. In a separate statistic, approximately 50% of the population is considered either overweight or obese. Adult obesity rates have nearly quadrupled, with Britain now officially the heaviest nation in Europe.
“The health risks are tremendous but the statistics are still going up exponentially,” Dr. Colin Waine of the National Obesity Forum said in the Daily Mail.
“We need the government to work with food manufacturers to produce a diet which is nutritious but less dense in sugar, salt and fat.”
According to the Department of Health in the United Kingdom, “…around 58% of type-2 diabetes, 21% of heart disease and between 8% and 42% of certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon) are attributable to excess body fat. Obesity is responsible for 9,000 premature deaths each year in England, and reduces life expectancy by, on average, 9 years.”
Contributing to the UK’s unhealthful eating habits is the prevalence of binge-drinking.
An article posted by Alcoholics Anonymous UK in 2006 reported that workers suffered 17 million hangovers per year, and indicates that drinking was responsible for one in seven sick days from 2005-2006! “Health experts warned the proportion of sick leave caused by hangovers has more than tripled in the last three years as boozing cost the economy 6.4 billion each year through absenteeism (1.8 million pounds), replacing staff (2.1 billion) and premature death (2.5 billion).”
According to National Statistics, alcohol-related deaths among men rose from 13.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2006 to 18.3 per 100,000 in 2007. This is twice the rate among women, which is at 8.8 deaths per 100,000.
In an attempt to combat these binge-drinking tendencies, the British government is implementing “sin taxes” on alcohol, cigarettes and automobiles which give off more pollution.
The Canadian Press reported that “alcohol duties will rise by six per cent above the rate of inflation—meaning an eight cents for a pint of beer, 26 cents for a bottle of wine and a whopping $1.10 for a bottle for liquor…
“The duties will then rise by another two per cent above inflation in each of the next four years, reversing a trend in previous budgets to keep increase low for most alcohol products. Duties on liquor were frozen for the last 10 years to boost British manufacturers’ competitiveness, accounting for the large jump this year.”
“A pack of cigarettes will rise by 22 cents.”
Surprisingly, the majority of Britons support “sin taxes.”
In 2004, a poll revealed that one in three Britons would support a tax on fast food, with more than half of those ages 16-24 in favor. Additionally, 20% would support a tax on chocolate (Reuters).
Alcohol, though, seems to be a different story.
“It is bizarre at a time when the economy is slowing, prices are rising and many families are feeling the pinch that the government should choose to add to their burden by making the simple pleasure of a glass of wine or spirits considerably more expensive,” said Jeremy Beadles, Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s chief executive.
According to Alcohol Concern, a UK-based agency that helps in the reduction of alcohol-related incidents, “alcohol is now 65% more affordable than it was in 1980.”
“A range of studies have found that increasing the price of alcohol can reduce road accidents and fatalities, workplace injuries; deaths from cirrhosis of the liver and various kinds of violent crime,” said a statement on Alcohol Concern's website.
Don Shenker, acting Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said the agency fully supports the new “sin taxes.”
“Over the past twenty years, as drinks have become cheaper, consumption has skyrocketed. Urgent action has been long overdue to reverse the tide.”