By Jennifer Lilonsky ( | First Posted: Mar 05, 2013 05:46 PM EST

(Photo : Reuters )

The United Kingdom is one of the unhealthiest nations in Western Europe, at least according to a new study that analyzed sickness and death rates in the U.K. from 1990 to 2010.

Researchers from the study looked at this data and then compared it to 15 other countries in Western Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and the U.S., and found that despite free medical care and ubiquitous health campaigns, the U.K. was found to be failing in regard to underlying public health risks like high blood pressure, obesity and drug and alcohol abuse.

Experts were blown away by the study's findings.

"It's incredibly surprising," said Dr. Christopher Murray, who studies health metrics at the University of Washington and is the study's lead author.

"We all think of the U.K. as having a great health system and as one of the most sophisticated medical research communities in the world. Nobody would have really expected that the U.K. would be toward the bottom."

In regard to life expectancy, the study ranked the U.K. as 12th, with a 68.6-year span of good health for most citizens.

As a point of reference, the U.S. ranked 17th out of 19 other countries with a 67.9-year span. Spain was ranked the highest with 70.9, while Finland came in last place with a projected 67.3-year span of good health.

And while researchers did not detect a change in the rate of premature deaths among British citizens between the ages of 20 and 54, drug and alcohol abuse deaths for that same age group did show a steep increase.

Liver disease, or cirrhosis, increased by more than 65 percent in Britain within the past 20 years, according to the results.

Heart disease, stroke and cancer proved to be the leading killers in the U.K., like in most Western nations.


*UPDATE - Headline modified at 6:39 p.m. EST

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