Sitting for long durations linked to premature deaths

A new study has found that thousands of premature deaths are occurring in the UK due to the long hours people spend sitting down. The study results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Image Credit: ProStockStudio / Shutterstock
Image Credit: ProStockStudio / Shutterstock

The research from Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University has found that 11.6% of deaths in the UK during 2016 were associated with long hours spent sitting down. Sedentary behaviour including less walking and movement has been earlier linked to premature deaths due to heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, lung diseases, womb cancers, mental health problems, muscle and bone diseases etc. The team noted that around 69,276 deaths were preventable and could have been avoided if people did not sit for six or more hours per day. Around £700m of the NHS spending is on diseases that can be prevented by reducing prolonged sitting says the study.

The researchers in their paper write, “Many individuals in the UK spend their leisure time in sedentary behaviour, and the workplace represents a significant proportion of unavoidable daily sitting time for many people. Measures should be taken to reduce sedentary behaviour with the aim of improving population health and reducing the financial burden to the health service.”

Lead author, Leonie Heron, a postgraduate researcher from the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast, in a statement said, “Many individuals in the UK spend their leisure time in sedentary behaviour, and the workplace represents a significant proportion of unavoidable daily sitting time for many people.” The research adds that even people who regularly visit the gym are not protected from premature deaths if they spend long hours sitting. Some experts have called sitting for a long time the “new smoking”.

Dr Mike Brannan, national lead for physical activity at Public Health England (PHE) said, “Even if you are physically active, sitting for long periods of time damages your health and greatly increases your risks of a broad range of health conditions.” The Health and Safety Executive says that all office workers need five to ten-minute screen breaks every hour. This also includes break from sitting. Guidance issued by PHE in 2014 also said that, “reducing inactivity could prevent up to 40 per cent of many long-term conditions.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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