A couch potato lifestyle is more likely to kill you if you are poor, according to new research from Glasgow University.

The study replicated findings from other studies that people living in deprived areas are more likely to suffer health effects related to bad diet, smoking and drinking and a lack of physical exercise.

But it also showed other factors, previously unrecognised, appear to have a disproportionate impact on the health of deprived populations - including abnormal sleep patterns and excessive TV viewing.

In a paper published in The Lancet Public Health journal, researchers say unhealthy behaviours are associated with higher death rates from all causes and increased cardiovascular disease.

However people in deprived areas are affected more than those in better-off areas even if they have similarly unhealthy lifestyles.

The study, led by the University of Glasgow, looked at health data for more than 328,000 adults in the UK Biobank, a long-term resource set up in 2006.

It examined previously-studied unhealthy behaviours such as excessive drinking, smoking, bad diet and a lack of physical activity alongside newer risk factors of sleep duration and TV viewing time.

Participants were rated for the unhealthiness of their lifestyle and were marked down if they watched more than four hours a day of television and slept to excess (more than nine hours a day) or too little (less than seven hours sleep).

The researchers found that these unhealthy behaviours are associated with negative outcomes for all participants, but people living in deprived areas are more vulnerable to the effects, and the link between an unhealthy lifestyle and death is stronger in the more deprived groups.

The study’s authors are now calling for a fundamental shift in government policy to reverse austerity and reduce poverty, which they consider to be a key driver of the disproportionate harm reported in their work.

They also call for more targeted support in deprived areas at the individual-level rather than broad-brush public health campaigns, to tackle the wider range of emerging lifestyle factors that contribute to ill-health.

Frances Mair, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing and lead author of the study, said: “This study is the first to highlight the disproportionate risk associated with a broad range of unhealthy lifestyle factors amongst more deprived socioeconomic groups.

“If this association is causal, it suggests that policies to improve a broader range of lifestyle factors amongst these groups could lead to substantial improvements in health outcomes.”

First author Dr Hamish Foster stated that “Based on the increased vulnerability seen in this study, deprived populations would continue to suffer worse outcomes even if there are similar levels of unhealthy lifestyle factors that are seen in more affluent populations.

“This clearly strengthens the arguments for government policies that tackle the up-stream causes of ill-health, aim to reduce poverty and for health policies that offer increased support in areas of deprivation.”

In June the Scottish Government announced a public health strategy focusing on mental wellbeing, substance abuse, poverty and inequality, health weight and physical activity.

Launching it, the then Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “As well as improving the quality and length of people’s lives, we also want to reduce the social and economic impact of ill-health and inequality, and help build a nation where people achieve their potential.

“I am clear that the NHS cannot do this alone; wellbeing is created in wider society, in communities and across our public services, and we need all of these partners to work together.”