Knowledge alone isn’t enough to change Scottish health trends

Published on Wednesday, 21 December 2011 15:31
Posted by Matthew Abbott

A new report from NHS Health Scotland shows that there continues to be a gap between people’s perceptions of their lifestyle and how healthy they report they are. 

The Knowledge, Attitudes and Motivations to Health report published today shows that many people know and understand the messages around good health but far fewer are changing their behaviour to lead a healthier lifestyle.

The report uses findings from the Knowledge, Attitudes and Motivation section of the 2010 Scottish Health Survey – a national government survey of health in Scotland. The questions in this section examine the links between respondents’ knowledge, attitudes and motivations and their reported behaviour.  

Health topics covered include alcohol consumption, diet, smoking, sexual health, physical activity and weight. 

Researchers found large differences between knowledge and behaviours. For example:

  • The vast majority of adults described their own alcohol consumption in moderate terms, despite drinking over the recommended limits:  41% described themselves as “a very light or occasional drinker” and a further 21% as “a light but regular drinker”.
  • Nearly nine out of ten (87%) were aware of the advice to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.  Despite this, less than a quarter (22%) ate at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Just over half (52%) of adults felt they were physically active enough to stay healthy, but only 39% met the current recommendation of at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week.
  • Most parents (83%) thought that their children’s weight was ‘about right’.  Yet, 33% of children had an unhealthy weight (underweight, overweight or obese) and 14% of children were obese.  

Dr. Laurence Gruer, Director of Public Health Science at NHS Health Scotland said: 

"These findings show that a lot of people seem to know what they should do to stay healthy but far fewer are actually making the necessary changes in their daily lives. The reasons for this are often complex and difficult to overcome. 

NHS Health Scotland will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government, other NHS Boards, Community Planning Partnerships and the voluntary sector to help everyone who could lead healthier lives to find the ways and means to do so. One of the most positive changes in recent years is the finding that almost all smokers now recognise the importance of not smoking when in the company of non-smokers, especially children.  However, smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable ill-health in Scotland and NHS Health Scotland will continue to work hard to help the many smokers who say they want to stop smoking for good."

Louise Flanagan, Public Health Information Manager at NHS Health Scotland said:

“These findings show that simply knowing how we should behave is unlikely to be enough to prompt most of us to make healthier choices. For many people, making changes to benefit their health in the long-term may be relatively low on their list of priorities. More needs to be done to understand and address barriers to acting on health advice, particularly among those in more disadvantaged socio-economic groups, who are less likely to feel that they have much influence over their own health.”

Source: NHS Health Scotland

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