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Bad habits 'reduce life expectancy'

Smoking, excess drinking and over-eating lead to a 12-year reduction in life expectancy for many Britons, according to new research.

Research carried out by Bupa found that females in their 50s were the most inactive and overweight, while men in this age group and in their 60s were also less active and heavier than other males.

The study, which looked at 5,000 people, found more than one in eight could be reducing their life span by up to 20 years or more due to bad habits, with the average person reducing theirs by 12 years.

The researchers calculated the changes people could make to increase their life expectancy.

For example, a 25-year-old woman who drinks 20 units of alcohol a week could add up to three years to her life by drinking six fewer units a week - the equivalent of cutting out about three glasses of wine.

The research involved almost 2,000 men and women in their 20s and 30s, about 850 in their 40s, almost 1,000 in their 50s and more than 800 in their 60s.

Annabel Bentley, Medical Director of Bupa Health and Wellbeing, said: "We all know that bad habits such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol damage our health but these findings show the real impact of our habits and the number of years we're knocking off our lives unnecessarily.

"But it's never too late to make a change for the better. Whether you're in your 20s or in your 70s, you could add years to your life by making lifestyle changes."

Copyright © Press Association 2011