Edward Malnick, Telegraph (London), April 1, 2014
Black and Asian families are significantly healthier than white people, official figures suggest.
A study found that one in three people from white families had long-standing illnesses, compared to only one in five of those from non-white ethnic groups.
White people were almost twice as likely as black and Asian people to have long-term illnesses which limit their lifestyle, the research suggests.
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show that 36 per cent of people from white ethnic groups had long-standing illnesses, while among non-white groups the proportion was 21 per cent.
A similar trend emerged among those suffering from “limiting” long-standing illnesses or disabilities, which affected 20 per cent of people in white ethnic groups but only 11 per cent of those from non-white backgrounds.
The figures, based on a survey conducted in 2012, were released on Tuesday as the final part of a series of studies by the ONS examining the lifestyle of Britons.
The “non-white” category included people categorised as Asian, black and Chinese, as well as those of mixed race.
This is thought to be the first time that official statisticians have examined the comparative likelihood of suffering long-standing illnesses among people from different ethnic backgrounds.
An ONS spokesman said the researchers were “curious as to what was driving the difference” but the study did not provide an explanation.
Prof Kennedy Cruickshank, professor of diabetes and cardiovascular medicine at King’s College London, said the differing ages in the white population compared to those groups described by the ONS as “non-white”, could be a “major factor” behind the trend.
Previous ONS studies have found that white groups tend to be older than those from other ethnic backgrounds and this research found that older people were much more likely to have LLIs or disabilities.
In 2012, 67 per cent of those aged 75 or over had such illnesses, compared to 14 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24.
The ONS said that when variable factors such as age were taken into account the difference between the two groups became “smaller” but the proportion of white people with limiting LLIs was still double that of non-white groups.
Prof Cruickshank also said that past studies had shown that some newer immigrants were more “reticent” about divulging personal data for surveys, which could also have affected the results.
The study comes after health experts said that a healthy diet should include 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, doubling the current five-a-day official advice.
Research by University College London, which involved a 12-year-study, found that eating large quantities of fruit and vegetables significantly lowered the risk of premature death.
The study also shows that unemployed people looking for work were almost twice as likely as those with jobs to have a limiting long-standing illness (LLI) or disability.
Among the jobless, 17 per cent had such an illness, compared to nine per cent of those in work.
People with higher incomes were far less likely to suffer from a disability or long-term illness that limited their activity–with only six per cent of people with an income of £50,000 or more falling into this category.
By contrast 11 per cent of those with incomes of less than £10,000 suffered from LLIs.