With the rise in the number of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disorders, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is working towards developing a national prevention strategy with a view to improving the population's health competence and encouraging healthier behaviour.
The main risk factors for these diseases were linked to personal behaviour such as tobacco smoking, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol consumption.
Private Docent Brian Martin and his colleagues from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) at the University of Zurich, examined the effects of these four factors on life expectancy, and found that people scoring high on these factors had 2.5 fold higher mortality risk in epidemiological terms than an individual who looks after his health.
But lead author Eva Martin-Diener put it out positively and said that a healthy lifestyle could help one stay ten years' younger'.
The researchers from the Zurich public health used data from the Swiss National Cohort (SNC), and focused on CVDs and cancer as they account for the most deaths in Switzerland. They succeeded in correlating data on tobacco consumption, fruit consumption, physical activity and alcohol consumption from 16,721 participants aged between 16 and 90 from 1977 to 1993 with the corresponding deaths up to 2008. The impact of the four forms of behaviour was still visible when biological risk factors like weight and blood pressure were taken into account as well.
It was found that while smoking had a 57 percent higher risk of dying prematurely, the impact of an unhealthy diet, not enough sport and alcohol abuse elevated mortality risk of around 15 percent for each factor.
According to Martin an unhealthy lifestyle had the most long-lasting impact, whereas high wine consumption, cigarettes, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, scarcely had any effect on mortality amongst the 45 to 55-year-olds, and had a visible effect on 65 to 75-year-olds.
The social and public health physicians depict the dependency of life expectancy and the four risk behaviours for the age groups in what are known as survival charts, and Eva Martin-Diener said that the charts could also play an important for the political discussions of prevention strategies for NCDs.