Lunch crisis hits British health

May 02 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Workaholic Britons take an average lunch break of only 35 minutes. More than four out of ten workers don't manage to take lunch break every day while almost one in five - 18 per cent - never take time out for lunch.

In contrast, the lunch break is still sacrosanct in most of the rest of Europe. In Mediterranean countries lunch is an opportunity to have a meal out with friends or to go home for a meal and a siesta, and workers will often be away from their desks for two hours or more.

In Britain, however, not only are we working longer hours than ever before, but we are also neglecting our diets and our health by taking ever-shorter lunch breaks and less exercise. With so much pressure to eat quickly, people are using energy-dense convenience foods they can eat quickly and easily at their desks and they don't have time to counteract that by taking a walk.

Now new research by Mintel has found increasing consumption of savory snacks, with people in the UK munching their way through an astonishing £43 million-worth of savory snacks per year. This is over three times the amount consumed by the French and any other European country.

These foods tend to have a high fat content and take far longer to digest. They increase drowsiness and can also contain higher levels of salt than recommended as a daily requirement.

Do you get a regular lunch break or do you feel pressurised to grab something on the run? And how can UK workplaces get over their macho, long-hours obsession and encourage workers to take breaks and eat properly? Let us know what you think.

Older Comments

I am based in a fairly small town which means that the choice of what we have for lunch is limited to something from the local bakery or the local pub! Thats if I get a break at all.

The difficulty with working such long hours is that the last thing one wants to think about when getting in from a long day at work is preparation of food for the next day. I would like to be more health conscious with both my eating and work habits, but this needs planning that only puts further pressure on my time.

Any tips would be gratefully received!

Peter Harrison Cornwall

The PR industry is known for its long work culture. When I do take a proper break I feel as if I should be doing something more important! But as a business leader its important to set an example. If the boss does not take time off for lunch then the team are unlikely to either.

nicola hunt london

Research carried out by the Work Life Balance Centre and Keele University would support the issue of the disappearing lunch break. I think we are personally and corporately losing out because of this. It is vitally important to refresh your mind regularly during the day. Without such 'pit-stops' errors and poor performance become much more likely. Our latest report ( shows just how catastrophic this can be.

Breaks are not a luxury - they are a necessity. Not taking them is one of the first steps to getting trapped on the work treadmill - working longer and longer hours but achieving less and less.

Julie Hurst

we are told we cant have a lunch break I am sure this is breaking the law after working an 8 1/4 shift. Powerhouse need to sort this out

me Biscter