There is still widespread ignorance among the UK population about what constitutes healthy eating, drinking and exercise, according to a government report.
A study by the NHS Information Centre has found that more than two-thirds of men and of women do not know, or underestimate, how much exercise they should be taking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Similarly, fewer than one-third of men and women know the maximum amount of alcohol they should drink in a day.
And, while most adults know that they should eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, just 14% of men and 11% of women know what constitutes a portion.
The Health Survey for England also showed a sharp increase in obesity levels across the country.
In 1993, 13% of men and 16% of women were obese, but in the latest survey this had risen to 24% for both sexes.
The survey also looked at what effect, if any, 2007’s move to ban smoking in public spaces had had on public health.
It found no evidence that, as yet, fewer people were smoking as a result of the ban. However, cotinine levels in people’s saliva (an indicator of recent nicotine exposure) showed that, since the ban, many smokers were probably smoking less.
Another positive note was that, despite the lack of detailed awareness and understanding, both physical activity levels and the consumption of fruit and vegetables were generally increasing.
The centre’s chief executive Tim Straughan said: “It is of concern that the messages about safe alcohol intake, appropriate exercise levels, and healthy eating do not seem to be getting through to all parts of the population.
“This is something the country needs to address if we are to avoid significant health problems in the near future.”