FIRST the good news. Around 15,000 people in Taunton Deane and West Somerset lead as near as perfect healthy lives.

But, the facts aren't as encouraging when it comes to the other 135,000 or so fortunate enough to live in one or other of the two districts.

Admittedly the figures are a bit guesswork, but they're based on a survey released on Tuesday that suggests the overwhelming majority of adults in England are so unhealthy they're putting their lives at risk.

Too many of us are choosing the bar bill (in the pub) rather than the bar bell (in the gym).

And, worryingly, it seems hundreds of children on our patch are already treading the same metaphoric, non-calorie burning path.

Information gleaned for the annual Health Survey for England shows that around nine out of ten people are 'guilty' of at least one unhealthy habit.

Their 'sins' range from drinking more than 14 units of alcohol - the recommended weekly limit roughly equates to six 175ml glasses of wine, six pints of lager or beer, five pints of cider or 14 25ml glasses of spirits, although it will depend on the strength of the drinks.

Furthermore, parents give children alcohol too young, despite the Chief Medical Officer for England advising against underage drinking.

Although many of the people who regularly massively overshoot the limit misguidedly find it hilarious, it's seriously no laughing matter. And of great concern is the number of people who go over their weekly 'allowance' on a number of occasions each week.

I'd guess booze over-indulgence alone qualifies most of us for clocking up their first unhealthy habit.

Other bad behaviour that could get you on the health naughty step are smoking, failing to eat your five portions of fruit or veg a day, obesity and lack of physical activity.

Any of those ring a bell? Well, the survey concludes that half of all adults have two or more of the risk factors.

Just the sort of news you want to hear as Christmas looms ever closer.

They say diets always start tomorrow - and tomorrow never comes. At this time of year, people pledge to cut down on the food and drink in the New Year - admittedly most of us succeed...until January 2.

The survey was published by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday after 8,000 adults and 2,000 children across the country were asked about their lifestyles.

Among statistics included in the report were that 7,700 people died in the UK from alcohol-specific causes in 2017.

It also emerged that 28 per cent of children with an obese mother were also obese, compared with eight per cent whose mother was a healthy weight. And 24 per cent of children of an obese father were also obese, compared with nine per cent of children where the father was not overweight.

It's quite clear - and has been for several years - that the UK needs to go on a diet.

But it's not easy to encourage the next generation to avoid the 'sins of their fathers' when, as Caroline Cerny, of the Obesity Health Alliance, observes, children are constantly hit from all angles with temptation in our "increasingly obesogenic environments".

She added: "Children today are bombarded by promotions for unhealthy food and drinks in stores and on the high street and exposed to countless junk food adverts online and during the TV programmes they watch most."

Coming back to the booze, the Jack the Lad and Jackie the Ladette culture of drinking needs to change.

Elaine Hindal, Drinkaware chief executive, recommends people taking more drink-free days and sticking to a maximum of 14 units a week.

She said: "The more you drink, the greater the long-term risk to your health and these ONS figures show a worrying increase in the number of alcohol specific deaths in the UK, particularly amongst women and 60 to 64-year-olds.

"From time to time, we are contacted by the families of people who have died as a result of alcohol and are only too aware of the heartbreak and utter sense of helplessness that people feel when trying to lead someone to seek help for alcohol misuse.

"Our own research has shown that middle aged drinkers in particular are drinking in ways that are putting them at risk of serious and potentially life limiting conditions such as heart disease, liver disease and some types of cancer; the drinking habits of older adults are simply not changing as fast as other groups in the population."

So, after all that, is there any good news? Pleasingly, yes. There are signs that some of the unhealthy traits are becoming less common.

The percentage of adult smokers has dropped from 27 per cent in 1993 to 17 per cent last year, with growing numbers turning to vaping. And drinking alcohol to excess is also down.

That means the most common unhealthy lifestyle trait is low fruit and vegetable consumption.

Although there are high levels of unhealthy lifestyles, around four in 10 adults have no signs of ill-health such as high blood pressure and raised cholesterol developing yet.

And there are also strong signs that children are becoming healthier, or at least demonstrating less risky behaviours. Last year just 5 per cent of eight to 15-year-olds had tried smoking, down from 19 per cent in 1997, while the number trying alcohol dipped from 45 per cent in 2003 to 14 per cent in 2017.


*64% of adults are overweight or obese. Children of overweight or obese parents are more likely to be obese or overweight themselves.

*18% of children have five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The average number of portions consumed per day was 3.2.

*17% of adults are current cigarette smokers.

*6% of adults are current users of e-cigarettes.

*19% of adults have three or more out of the five risk factors. A further 32% have two risk factors.

*14% of adults reported having had a diagnosed cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is more prevalent in lower income households.

*16% of adults are providing unpaid support to at least one person with long-term mental or physical health problems, a disability, or with problems related to old age. Half said their caring role had an effect on their health.