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Thursday 12 January 2017

A third of UK adults at risk from drinking too much, yet just 6% of those at risk say they want to cut down

  • Britain’s Healthiest Workplace investigates the lifestyle factors people are looking to improve in 2017.
  • Exercise and weight the two health factors UK adults are most keen to change. 

One third (31%) of UK adults are exceeding weekly alcohol guidelines, according to data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace*, developed by VitalityHealth and delivered in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer. Britain’s Healthiest Workplace studies both exposure to health risks, and people’s motivation to make changes to their health.

Drinking habits were shown to differ by age group. The study showed that people over 60 drink most regularly, drinking alcohol on around 10 separate occasions in any given month. This is very different to the drinking habits of young people, (aged between 18 and 30) who drink less regularly, but are more likely to consume more in a single session. On average, those aged between 40 and 60 tend to consume the most alcohol, (approximately 12 units per week on average). The research also found that men drink more than women, both in terms of how regularly they drink, and how much they consume in each session. 

Surveying people’s attitudes to alcohol shows that changing this behaviour may be a challenge. Of the 31% who exceeded government health guidelines, 56% were happy with the amount they drink and had no intention of cutting down; a further 38% recognise that they should drink less, but do not intend to in the short term, while only 6% reported being motivated to change. 

Attitudes to other health risks, however, are very different. The areas where people appear most motivated are body composition and physical activity. While around 50% were at risk for having an unhealthy BMI, 78% of this group expressed a motivation to change. 41% of people were at risk for not exercising enough, and of this group 69% expressed a motivation to change. Only 12% of those at risk said that they were happy with the amount of exercise they are doing. 

50% of people are at risk for following an unhealthy diet, with 34% of this group being motivated to change. Of 11% of respondents who were current smokers, 38% were either motivated to, or actively trying to, stop smoking. 

Shaun Subel, Strategy Director at VitalityHealth, said: “The new year is often associated with resolutions and provides people with a great opportunity to make changes to their lifestyle after the excesses of the festive season. However, our findings show that people’s lifestyle choices are complex and changing them can sometimes pose a challenge. Often people do not recognise that their lifestyle is potentially damaging to their health, or are put off making changes until a future date, prioritising short term gratification over the long-term health impact.

“We’d encourage everyone to make sure they are aware of government health guidelines and motivate themselves to make positive changes to their lifestyle today, which can lead to significant health improvements in both the short and long-term.” 

Lifestyle factor At risk Happy as things are/not interested in changing Understands the issue, but does not intend to change Understands the issue and is motivated to change 
Alcohol  31% at risk of exceeding the governments weekly alcohol guidelines of no more than 14 units per week  56% are happy with the amount they drink 38% know they should drink less but do not intend to cut down 6% would like to cut down the amount they drink
Body composition 51% at risk of being outside the healthy BMI range of 18.5 and 24.9 17% are happy with their weight 5% would like to change their weight, but not right now 78% would like to change their weight
Physical activity  41% at risk of not reaching the government recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week 12% are happy with the amount of exercise they do 19% feel they should be doing more exercise, but do not intend to change their lifestyle right now 69% would like to do more exercise
Nutrition   50% at risk of not eating a healthy diet (5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day).  40% are happy with their diet 26% feel their diet is not good, but do not currently intend to change 34% would like to change their diet
Smoking 11% at risk due to being a current smoker.  15% do not intend to stop smoking 48% would like to stop smoking but not right now 38% are either actively trying to stop, or are motivated to stop smoking. 


Notes to editors:

* The Britain's Healthiest Workplace research process took place between February and August 2016. It looked at a number of lifestyle, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity factors amongst 34,128 employees, together with a broad view of leadership and cultural dimensions and organisational policies, practices and facilities that could directly impact on employee health, across 160 companies. Results based on UK workforce as reported by each company surveyed. 

Vitality – changing health and life insurance for good
Vitality is the insurance business that helps people understand how they can improve their own personal health. Vitality makes it cheaper and easier for its members to get healthy and gives them rewards to keep them motivated, through a range of discounts and incentives. 

Vitality Ambassadors Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Root and Maro Itoje are role models who embody the values of Vitality. They are all using their passion for living a healthy lifestyle to motivate others to make positive changes. Taking small steps today can dramatically improve wellbeing over the long-term, regardless of your current state of health.

VitalityHealth is one of the UK’s leading private medical insurers and has pioneered the ‘shared-value’ insurance model. This is a unique approach to insurance that uses incentives to motivate better lifestyle choices among members, which translates into lower mortality and morbidity risk over time. The effect is positive for all stakeholders – members benefit through the financial and intrinsic value of rewards, as well as better health; employers benefit from healthier, more productive, and more engaged employees; and Vitality benefits from a healthier membership base. For more information visit

Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and careers of their most vital asset – their people. Mercer’s more than 20,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in over 140 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global professional services firm offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With annual revenue of $13 billion and 60,000 colleagues worldwide, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a leader in management consulting. For more information, visit Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer. In the UK, Mercer Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

For further information, please contact:
Dan McMillan
07824 604 926
[email protected]

Teamspirit Public Relations
020 7360 7877
[email protected]

Mags Andersen, Mercer
020 7178 3513
[email protected]