iVan survey proves five-a-day van drivers are flouting their unhealthy stereotype

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Are all van drivers tabloid-reading, football-loving stereotypical white van men? The type who roam the road in a Ford Transit, cutting up car drivers before nipping off for a crafty pint on the way home?

Not all van drivers are tabloid-reading, football-loving stereotypical white van men.

Are van drivers a healthy bunch? Most people would probably think not. However, a new survey conducted by iVan insurance has revealed that van drivers are, perhaps surprisingly, more health conscious than it might be imagined.

Although it has been variously debunked that all van drivers are tabloid-reading, football-loving stereotypical white van men – the type who roams the road in a Ford Transit, cutting up car drivers before nipping off for a crafty pint on the way home – it is possible that many members of the general public would still see van drivers, generally, as unfit pie-eaters.

This view may possibly be because commercial drivers are presumed to spend long periods of time behind the wheel, are only able to eat fast foods while out on the road and, as a large percentage of van drivers are involved in trades which involve manual labour, it may be assumed that the typical van driver does not feel like exercising when he (or she) gets home from work.

However, the iVan Van Driver Health Survey 2012 has revealed some interesting data:

Of the respondents, 86% considered themselves healthy and had not suffered any serious ill-health issues. Of those who had suffered ill health; heart disease, diabetes and depression were the issues cited.

The importance of a balanced diet, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and getting regular exercise has been well and truly drummed into the consciousness of the UK’s population over recent years, but the researchers wanted to know whether van drivers had got the message – and generally it was a yes.

Of the van drivers polled 67% said they would start the day with a decent breakfast, 24% said they eat breakfast if they were able and 10% admitted to never eating breakfast.

Generally, the breakfast choices were healthy, with cereals and fruits accounting for 56% of the breakfast menu for the van drivers questioned.

When it came to getting enough healthy foodstuffs, 38% of van drivers said they definitely got their recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. However, of those who didn’t eat that amount, most of the drivers were at least attempting to eat healthily, with 48% of all drivers eating two to four portions of fruit and veg per day.

Almost two thirds (62%) of those surveyed ate mainly healthy foods and only 14% of the drivers preferred fast foods - while 24% said they ate a mixed diet of healthy meals and fast foods or whatever was available whenever they needed to eat.

Almost half of the drivers who took part in the survey (48%) worked in construction or building maintenance and the amount of time each driver spent behind the wheel of their van varied greatly. Only 5% of drivers spent less than an hour daily in their vans and the same percentage spent more than six hours daily behind the wheel. The majority of drivers, 72%, spent between one and four hours in their van daily.

When it came to getting enough exercise, only 14% took the easy option and said that their work provided them with enough exercise. However, more than a third (38%) openly admitted to not doing any form of exercise other than their work. Yet, just less than half of the respondents (48%) undertook regular exercise, with cycling and running being the most popular forms of non work-related exercise.

According to the 2011 Statistics on Smoking report, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) a branch of the NHS Information Centre, in 2009 21% of the English population were smokers. Those in the routine and manual socio-economic group were more likely to smoke than those in the managerial and professional group (28% and 14% respectively) and the iVan survey revealed a slightly higher percentage of smokers among the respondents, at 33%.

However, according to the HSCIC report, smokers lit up an average of 13.1 cigarettes per day - the iVan survey revealed only one smoker who said they smoked up to 20 a day and the rest of the smokers all smoked less than ten a day, which is well below the national average as defined in the 2011 statistics.

While it appears that the health message about smoking may be getting across to the general public, and van drivers alike, the consumption of alcohol is still, it appears, widely accepted. The HSCIC 2010 Statistics on Alcohol report said that 71% of men and 56% of women (aged 16 and over) reported consuming alcohol on at least one day in the week prior to interview.

Of the iVan survey respondents a whopping 90% said they drink alcohol. However, only 21% said they drink on most nights and at weekends, while the other 79% said it was at weekends only or rarely.

This survey, made up of 90% male and 10% female van drivers, revealed that today’s van men / women are slightly above the national standard in terms of numbers of smokers and drinkers, but, for their socio-economic group, the smokers were generally smoking less than the average. The drinking stats showed that the iVan cohort were almost exactly as expected in terms of those who drank alcohol, but the rate of regular drinkers was very low.

The HSCIC Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England, 2012 report states that in 2010, 25% of men and 27% of women ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables per day. iVan’s survey revealed that 38% of van drivers polled were getting the recommended five portions per day.

The HSCIC report also revealed that in 2008, 39% of men and 29% of women (aged 16+) met the government’s recommendations for physical activity – this was slightly higher than in 1997 when the figures had been 32% and 21% respectively. Yet, 62% of iVan’s survey respondents were getting regular exercise (including work-related activity).

So, the iVan Van Driver Health Survey 2012 suggests that, generally, van drivers are not an unhealthy bunch and that they enjoy eating healthily and getting regular exercise. But sadly, there’s one stereotype which can’t be busted – van drivers love Ford Transit vans, as 38% of the respondents were driving the stalwart model. The Transit’s closest rival was the Mercedes Vito, with 10% of the count.

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