Old age may be approaching faster than many of us think, with a survey suggesting many adults have the health of an older person.
About 70 per cent of those who took part in the January survey of workers, commissioned by health insurer Southern Cross, were found to have a worse state of health than expected for their age.
Based on factors like obesity, job stress and alcohol intake, the study calculated 53 per cent had a health rating of bodies one to nine years older than their actual age. And 18 per cent gained at least 10 "penalty years" - meaning they would be expected to have the "range and frequency" of health problems associated with someone at least 10 years older.
Southern Cross has an interest in workers' health as a provider of corporate health insurance and of wellness programmes.
Southern Cross chief executive of health insurance, Peter Tynan, said the results of the survey, done by tns Conversa, were of concern because a workforce that was healthy was more productive and had less absenteeism.
The findings underline a state-sponsored 2003 study on the effect of nutrition and lifestyle on premature death.
That study estimated that in 1997 up to 11,000 deaths - 40 per cent of all deaths - were caused by poor diet and lack of physical activity and that many people would live longer by making only modest improvements.
* 461 working people were asked about health factors like smoking, alcohol, diet and stress. Height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol ratings were recorded.
* Calculations indicated 18 per cent had bodies effectively at least 10 years older than their actual age.
* 53 per cent - 1-9 years older.
* 5 per cent - no older.
* 22 per cent - 1-9 years younger.
* 2 per cent - at least 10 years younger.