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How is that New Year resolution going for you?

By Anne Jannssen, Senior Analyst

If you are making a change in your health behaviour and have got this far into January without throwing in the towel – well done you!

When it comes to people’s health habits, it has long been known that where you live in the country reveals significant variations in the levels of physical activity and other preventable risk factors. Here we investigate some of the more common New Year resolutions relating to health and highlight the significant variations across the country. Check out the interactive Power BI dashboard we have built to compare health behaviours by local authority.

We have used publicly available data from the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities, which since the 1st of October 2021 has replaced Public Health England (with the UK Health Security Agency). Their focus is on the nation’s health and on levelling up health disparities so that everyone can live a healthy life and break the link between background and healthy life prospects.

Physical activity

Recommended activity per week: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spread evenly over 4-5 days a week

Firstly, we looked at the most recent data on physical activity and inactivity, available for 2019/20. About two-thirds of adults (66.4%) in England said they were doing at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity a week. However, 22.9% said they were doing less than 30 minutes of moderately intense activity a week. Not only does this show almost one in four adults in England are physically inactive, but we’ve also uncovered some variation between areas and grouped them by deprivation score. In Blackburn with Darwen only 49.4% of people were physically active compared to the Isles of Scilly where 80.2% exercised regularly followed by West Berkshire where 77.3% were physically active. The most inactive area was Bolton with 35.2% of people saying that they were doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, compare to West Berkshire where only 14.2% were inactive.

Healthy weight

The recommended range for healthy BMI: 18.5-24.9

We also considered the proportion of people that are classed as overweight as a higher BMI is a risk factor for a range of conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, some types of cancer, musculoskeletal problems and many more. Roughly two in three (62.8%) adults in England were classed as overweight in 2019/20, and it is likely that the pandemic has driven that percentage up. People in Halton were more likely to be overweight, with 78.3% classed as overweight in 2019/20, compared to the least likely area, Hammersmith and Fulham, where only 41.6% were overweight.


Another popular resolution is to quit smoking, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and cancers and is considered a primary driver for inequalities between rich and poor. According to 2020 data, 12.1% of adults in England were smokers. There is significant variation, with almost one in five people (20.8%) in Manchester reporting they smoked, compared to just 5.5% of people in Wokingham.

Overall, we know that there are significant gaps between areas when it comes to risk factors concerning people’s health and with the beginning of a new year, there is no better time to address these. As the second Friday in January is also known as ‘Quitter’s Day’ when people start giving up on their resolutions, there is no better time to look at these variations to ensure that everyone has a chance at a healthy life this year.

View our interactive dashboard here.

Data source: Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Public Health Profiles. 2022. © Crown copyright 2022. Date accessed 11.01.2022


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