Laziness due to smartphones has worsened more rapidly in Britain than in any other major western European country, researchers have warned.

A study examining levels of sedentary behaviour among adults found a 22 per cent increase in the UK between 2002 and 2017.

Its authors say greater rates of inactivity among the 35 to 44 age group is partly driving the change, as well as a greater tendency among all adults to be sedentary during their leisure time due to the proliferation of handheld devices.The first iPhone went on sale in Europe in 2007.

Among near neighbours with large populations, France saw the next worse increase in sedentary behaviour – defined as spending four and half hours or more a day sitting down – with 17.8 per cent, followed by a 7.4 per cent increase in Germany, 3.9 per cent in Spain, and just 0.2 per cent in Italy.

Rates increased by around eight per cent across Europe as a whole.

Inactivity is one of the biggest drivers of life-threatening conditions such as Type-2 diabetes and cancer.

Published in the journal BCM Public Health, the authors argue that governments would have more success in battling unhealthy lifestyles if they stressed the dangers of spending too much time sitting down separately from encouraging people to go to the gym.

Previous research in 2016 has estimated that there were 230,000 deaths in Europe each year attributable to sitting time, approximately 4.4 per cent of all deaths.

Meanwhile experts have calculated the figure for Britain to be 70,000 deaths a year, 12 per cent of the total.

The new study showed gender to significantly influence levels of sedentary sedentary behaviour, with 52.2 per cent of men across Europe sitting for more than four-and-a-half hours per day compared to 49.5 per cent of women. 

Between 2002 and 2017 the prevalence of sedentary behaviour in Great Britain increased by 25.2 per cent for men and 16.5 for women, while in Germany the prevalence increased by 15.6 per cent for men but decreased by 1.2 per cent for women.

Overall, 43.5 per cent of British adults spent four and a half hours or more a day sitting down at the beginning of the study, whereas the proportion at the end was 53.3.

Last year a survey of smartphone owners in the UK found that, on average, people spend three hours and 25 minutes on their phones each day, 52 minutes of which is spent on social media.

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