One in 10 premature deaths linked to sitting, study finds

26 March 2019, 01:23 | Updated: 26 March 2019, 09:42

Thousands of premature deaths could be avoided each year if people reduced the amount of time they spend sitting down.

Some 11.6% of deaths in the UK during 2016 were linked to prolonged sedentary behaviour, according to research from Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University.

Around 69,276 deaths could have been prevented that year if this behaviour - defined as sitting for more than six hours a day - was eliminated, they found.

The research is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The authors wrote: "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."

They estimated that the NHS spends around £700m treating diseases associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour.

These diseases include cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, lung cancer and endometrial cancer.

There is also some evidence that sedentary behaviour is also linked to several other cancers, mental health disorders and musculoskeletal disorders, they added.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Gavin Sandercock, from the University of Essex, said: "Sitting less might save some lives and cost the NHS less but, because we have created a sitting-based economy, there are likely to be costs associated with interventions to reduce sitting time in the workplace.

"The 'bang for your buck' of reducing sitting time is pretty small in terms of health benefits - you actually have to reduce sitting time by several hours each day to see noticeable improvements in health.

"In contrast, getting people to be more physically active has much bigger effects."