UKLondon has the healthiest workers while Wales fares the worst, according to a new UK health map based on data on a combination of lifestyle choices and clinical outcomes of 10,000 employees across the country. The map, produced by PruHealth with Vitality and Mercer as part of the Britain’s Healthiest Company* report, shows that where people live and work really does have an impact on health.

The study analyzed lifestyle, behavioral and clinical risk factors including weight, diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol intake, stress, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, blood pressure as well as how often people attend health screenings to monitor and understand their health.

Top healthiest regions in the UK

1. London
2. Northern Ireland
3. North East/South East
4. South West
5. North West/East Anglia

Britain’s Healthiest Company 2014 aims to discover and celebrate organizations within the UK that demonstrate best practice and innovative approaches to looking after the health and wellbeing of their staff. It is open to companies with 50+ employees.

Participants receive a Corporate Health Report detailing the main health and lifestyle risks facing their organization, tailor made recommendations on how to improve, and how they are benchmarked against other companies. Participating employees receive a Personal Health Report providing an insight into their health and recommendations on lifestyle changes they can make. 

The research, analysis and production of the Health Reports will be undertaken by Cambridge University and Rand Europe, which have a joint centre for research into matters of public health: the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research.

Lifestyles impact health

“This map paints a fascinating picture of the health of the corporate nation,” according to Dr Katie Tryon, Head of Clinical Vitality at PruHealth. “It shows how employee’s lifestyles are impacting their overall health and ultimately reducing their life expectancy. There is a clear picture of how each UK region is performing and where the hotspots are. 

Good intentions

“Most of us start the New Year with good intentions. By making lifestyle adjustments now staff can improve their quality of life and not only live longer, but have healthier lives and reduce their chances of developing a chronic disease. Loss of productivity and absenteeism levels are of growing concern to many companies which can see a potential time bomb, with the combination of an ageing workforce and increasing sickness levels due to lifestyle-related illnesses, directly impacting the bottom line.”

Overall 86% of British workers have an average Vitality (health) Age** of 4.1 years older than their real age due to unhealthy lifestyles. In comparison, workers in London have a health age of 3.2 years older than their actual age, while those in Wales are 5.5 years older and this is mainly attributable to their lifestyle choices. 

Londoners are the slimmest (65% in the healthy range) and do the most exercise (45%), while those living in the North East came up top eating most healthily (74%), smoking the least (26%) and are most conscious about their health, attending on average 1.44 health screenings every year. At the other end of the scale, nearly three quarters (74%) of workers in Wales are not exercising enough and over half (55%) smoke. The West Midlands also fell short with only 42% in the healthy weight range and just 57% eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Barriers to health

The study found a direct correlation between income and health with lifestyle risk factors more prevalent among lower income earners. On average nationally, those on the highest salaries have a health age of almost two years younger than those on the lowest.

Commenting on the findings, Chris Bailey, Head of Corporate Consulting for Employee Health and Benefits at Mercer said: “Employers who recognise the regional variance in both the healthcare needs of their workforce and in healthcare provision itself across the UK can greatly increase the return on investment on their healthcare spend. Mercer has negotiated client specific healthcare relationships with local hospitals, clinicians and other facilities to realise genuine savings for local employers.

Mercer said employers who target interventions in the areas most needed see a short term impact in terms of reduced benefits costs and also deliver longer term risk and cost management as chronic risk factors are minimized or avoided.