Sedentary lifestyles are leading to around 50,000 deaths per year in the United Kingdom and result in costs to the NHS of almost £1 billion, according to new figures published in the BMJ.
The research, by Queen's University Belfast and the Ulster University, estimated NHS costs associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour (≥6 hours/day) over a one-year period (2016-2017). A population attributable fraction (PAF) was calculated for five health outcomes - type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), colon cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. Figures on sedentary behaviour were taken from the Health Survey for England 2012. Deaths from all causes were combined with figures on the percentage of adults who are sedentary on any given day of the week to estimate the overall impact sedentary behaviour has at a United Kingdom population level.
The results suggest that 11.6 per cent of all-cause mortality was associated with sedentary behaviour, and 69,276 deaths might have been avoided in 2016 if sedentary behaviour was eliminated in the UK. More realistically, if levels of sedentary behaviour were reduced by 10, 30 or 50% in 2016, a total of 4802, 12,006 or 24,012 deaths, respectively, might have been avoided.
The total NHS cost attributable to prolonged sedentary behaviour in the UK in 2016=2017 was £0.8 billion, which included expenditure on CVD (£424 million), type 2 diabetes (£281 million), colon cancer (£30 million), lung cancer (£19 million) and endometrial cancer (£7 million). After adjustment for potential double-counting, the estimated total was £0.7 billion.
The authors point out that these costs are probably a conservative estimate of the true burden of sedentary behaviour as it is also associated with other conditions that were not included in the analysis.