I was browsing the BBC News website this morning when I came across a piece about avoidable early death rates. In the UK a premature death is now regarded as one under the age of 75, which is nice to know. Unless you happen to be 74, I suppose. Apparently, a child born in England today has a 1-in-3 chance of dying prematurely. It has been determined that location is one of the most important factors determining our fate.
In a bizarre piece of spin, the sub-heading tells us:
The local variation in early death rates revealed in a new league table for England is “shocking” and must drive action to improve health, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Nice of Mr Hunt to show concern. (This is the same Jeremy Hunt, of course, who wants to penalise high-performing Lewisham Hospital for the financial irregularities of a neighbouring health care trust. He’s also leading a program of Accident & Emergency Unit closures at a time when their ability to cope is at its lowest ebb for a generation.) But I digress…
The BBC piece was reporting a story over on Public Health England’s website that proved even more revealing. Their headline screamed: “In 2011, one in three deaths in England was under the age of 75.” If they’d been more “my cup is half full”, they’d have pushed the good news that 66.67% of people live longer than the magic age. Apparently the biggest early killers are cancer, stroke, and diseases of the heart, liver and lungs.
Maps showing areas with the most risk reminded me of another map I’d seen recently. I dug that out and put the two side by side:
The conclusions that can be drawn from studying these maps are:
- Voting Labour is bad for your health.
- Poor people tend to vote Labour more than rich people (“Champagne Socialists” excluded, of course).
- Living in cities and urban areas makes you more likely to die early than if you live in the countryside.
- People in cities are more likely to vote Labour than those in rural areas.
- There are more branches of McDonald’s in cities than there are in the country (but they’re working on that).
- Poverty is bad for your health.
- Poor people should stop being poor as soon as possible.
This morning, the BBC Today programme highlighted a North-South Divide aspect to the story, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The map clearly shows that most of Yorkshire is green on the “health” map and blue (Tory) on the “Parliamentary” map. The same goes for Cheshire and the majority of what we’d call northern England, excluding the built-up areas of Lancashire, Merseyside, Cumbria and the North-East. London is predominantly red on both maps.
Maybe a diet of e-numbers, factory-farmed chicken and horse-burgers makes you more likely to vote left-of-centre, which seems unlikely. As a healthy-living pescetarian, I can be smug in the knowledge that I’m voting Labour out of conscience rather than from any chemical impulse.
When you dig deeper, you see that the worst place for liver disease is Blackpool, and the best is Wiltshire. Blackpool also scores scores highest when it comes to lung disease (so much for bracing sea air!), and Bromley on the south-eastern edge of London has England’s lowest rate. For heart disease and stroke, the inhabitants of Manchester come out worst and they should definitely consider a move to Wokingham in Berkshire, which has around a third of the Manc’s early death rate. Manchester also fares worst for cancer; this time Harrow comes out on top (well, bottom, if you see what I mean).
Overall the best places to live were Wokingham, Richmond upon Thames, Dorset, Surrey, South Gloucestershire, Rutland, Harrow, Bromley Kensington & Chelsea and Hampshire. All of them had rates of between 200-214 of premature deaths per 100,000 of their population. The bottom ten (with their premature death rates) are:
- Manchester | 455
- Blackpool | 432.4
- Liverpool | 389
- Salford | 382
- Kingston upon Hull, City of | 375.3
- Middlesbrough | 370.9
- Knowsley | 359.6
- Blackburn with Darwen | 354.4
- Tameside | 351.7
- Nottingham | 351.4
Here’s the official video from Public Health England. Funny he doesn’t mention anything about not voting Labour or visiting Blackpool for your health: