England has the highest levels of obesity within the European Union, still suffers from widespread regional public health inequalities, and diabetes and alcohol-related hospital admission rates are rising.
The findings, outlined in the government’s annual review of the nation’s health, also suggest that deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis have risen markedly, with England above average for the EU’s 15 member states.
But the picture is by no means all grim. Overall, life expectancy in England is at its highest level, with deaths from cancer, heart disease and stroke all falling, the research pointed out.
The number of people smoking was decreasing, as was the number of smoking-attributable deaths, said the review.
Early death from the two biggest killers, circulatory disease and cancer, were falling faster in England than the average for the EU, and deaths from road traffic accidents were among the lowest in Europe.
Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: “While we have made good progress in stopping people smoking, I am determined to move further and faster to respond to all these challenges – with a cross-government drive to tackle obesity, improve diet and activity levels and promote safe and sensible drinking.”
The research came as the British Medical Journal, along with cancer charity Cancer Research UK, suggested that overweight and obese women in the UK are at a higher risk of developing and dying from cancer.
The Oxford University-led research estimated that 5% of all cancers (about 6,000 annually) are attributable to being overweight or obese.