Bad lifestyle choices are taking more than four years off the lives of UK employees, in the process making them unhealthy and old before their time, according to a study.
The poll of more than 10,000 employees in June 2013 – by health insurer PruHealth, wellness programme provider Vitality and consultancy Mercer - was published as part of the launch of "Britain's Healthiest Company Index".
The survey used a "Vitality Age" calculator developed by PruHealth to assess whether or not a person's health-risk age matched their actual chronological age, taking into consideration the presence or absence of certain risk factors such as lack of physical activity or the individual being overweight.
It found 86% of those polled had a Vitality Age 4.1 years older than their real age because of their unhealthy lifestyles. Nearly one-third had three or more risk factors.
Men aged between 40 and 49 were the group most likely to have a higher Vitality Age, which means that they were 12% more likely to visit their GP and 13% more likely to be hospitalised than those with a matching real age and Vitality Age.
Research company Quintiles and retailer Adidas both won top place in the Britain's Healthiest Company competition in, respectively, the sub-1,000 employees and more than 1,000 employees categories.
Quintiles was applauded for its wellness strategy "Healthy U, Healthy Q", which includes a one-stop website where employees can find health and wellness information and tools, as well as details of benefits available.
Adidas, by comparison, offers its UK staff access to a "Wellness Centre" that has two gyms, sports masseurs, nutritionists and personal trainers.