Urgent action needed to address ‘bleak picture’ people’s health in Scotland

Urgent action is needed to improve the health of people in Scotland after an official report found 30% of children were not at a healthy weight, Cancer Research UK has said.

The Scottish Health Survey “paints a bleak picture”, the charity claimed, with almost two-thirds of adults overweight and the lowest score for mental well-being recorded since the study began.

Scots who consider their general health to be good or very good also reached the lowest level since the survey began in 2008.

Commissioned by the Scottish Government, the annual survey found 16% of children were at risk of obesity.

This increased significantly with age, from 11% of those aged two to six to 21% of those aged 12 to 15.

Professor Linda Bauld (pictured), Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, based at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking so this report, which holds a mirror up to the health of the nation, paints a bleak picture.

“It’s clear that urgent action is needed to help guide Scots onto the path of better health.”

The survey found just 15% of children ate the recommended five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, while 10% of children did not have any fruit or vegetables on the day before being asked.

Calling for action to restrict deals for unhealthy food, Prof Bauld added: “To break the grip of this obesity epidemic, laws are needed to restrict multi-buy offers on unhealthy food and drink.

“Plans in the recent Programme for Government to introduce these laws won the approval of the public, as well as Scotland’s medical community.

“Given Scotland’s obesity problem, politicians now have a duty to make sure this happens before the next Scottish Parliament elections.

“The health of our nation depends upon it.”

The survey, which polled 4,810 adults and 1,983 children across Scotland, did find non-diet soft drink consumption has “fallen considerably” for both groups.

In 2018, 10% of adults drank sugary drinks every day, down from 20% in 2016, while 16% of children between two and 15 consumed non-diet soft drinks daily, down from 35% two years ago and a reduction from between 38% and 39% in the years 2008-2009 to 2013-2014.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton described mental ill health as being “at crisis levels”.

He said: “Far too many critical measures of Scotland’s heath are stagnating.

“Deep-seated unhealthy lifestyle choices are having a serious impact on our physical well-being and causing an obesity epidemic.

“These figures show the urgent need to make a transformative investment in mental health and for public health interventions on the scale of the smoking ban, only this time focusing on Scotland’s poor diet and lack of activity.”

Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman said: “During their decade in power, the SNP has profoundly failed to improve the physical and mental well-being of Scots.

“The SNP’s public health approach has failed and their mismanagement of the NHS has also made it harder for Scots to access help when they need it.

“Mental health waiting times are at an all-time high and anti-depressant prescription is also increasing despite the SNP’s promise to reduce it.

“It’s no wonder Scots consider themselves to be less healthy after a decade of the SNP.”

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