29 Jun 2012

Do you live in the unhealthiest place in England?

From drug abuse to child obesity, new profiles released by the Department of Health show the disparity of health standards across England.

Life Expectancy

Average life expectancy in one of the wealthiest areas in the UK, London’s Kensington & Chelsea, outstrips life expectancy in Blackpool by nearly 11 years, figures compiled by the Public Health Observatories show.

But the 2012 Local Health Profiles, which collect together all the latest data on a range of health indicators, show much more than life expectancy. From drug abuse to deprivation, smoking to sexually-transmitted diseases, the statistics show a stark image of the health divides within our country.

Channel 4 News has ranked the UK’s locations with a “health balance” – a measure derived by subtracting the times when an area has significantly under-performed the UK average in a particular health category from the amount of times it has outperformed.

The balance reflects the North-South divide, with southerners continuing to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

Public health minister Ann Milton said: “From next April, we will be putting local councils in charge of improving the public’s health. They will have the power and the budget to tackle the causes of poor health in their areas. This should help to reduce health inequalities and mean that everyone has the same opportunity to lead a healthy life.”

The best and the worst

Top of the health balance list is the borough of Waverley in Surrey, Elmbridge which is also in Surrey, and Richmond-upon-Thames in the south west of London.

Waverley has the smallest proportion of obese children with just 9.8 per cent of Year 6 pupils considered obese. It also enjoys the third lowest number of homeless households, and the third lowest rate of teenage pregnancies in the country.

Elmbridge also has low levels of childhood obesity and has the second lowest level of smoking related deaths at a rate of 132 in every 100,000 people.

Richmond-upon-Thames has one of the highest rates of adults eating healthily and one of the lowest rates of adult obesity. It also has the second lowest rate of people being diagnosed with diabetes.

At the other end of the spectrum, Stoke-on-Trent, Salford and Gateshead have the worst scores. The figures show Stoke-on-Trent has higher than average levels of drug misuse, smoking-related deaths and teenage pregnancies.

Salford has high proportions of adults smoking, alcohol-related hospital stays and early deaths from heart-related disease and cancer. Gateshead had low proportions of adults who ate healthily and had the highest level of adult obesity at 30.1 per cent.

You can view and find the country profile for your area on the Public Health Observatories website.

The rankings


1. Waverley, Surrey; Elmbridge, Surrey; Richmond-upon-Thames, London.
2. Wokingham, Berkshire; Kingston-upon-Thames, London; Chiltern, Buckinghamshire
3. Windsor & Maidenhead, Berkshire; Guildford, Surrey
4. Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; Hart, Hampshire; Dacorum, Hertfordshire
5. Winchester, Hampshire; Uttlesford, Essex; Mole Valley, Surrey


1. Gateshead, Tyne & Wear; Salford, Greater Manchester; Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
2. Sandwell, West Midlands
3. Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire; Rochdale, Greater Manchester; Blackpool, Lancashire
4. Nottingham, East Midlands; Walsall, West Midlands; Wolverhampton, West Midlands
5. Barking & Dagenham, London; St Helens, Merseyside; Tameside, Greater Manchester

What the councils say

Councillor Mary Foy, Gateshead’s cabinet member for health, said: “There is a well-known and long-established link between income and health – we have known about this for decades. That is why we have focussed interventions around education, housing, jobs and supporting people to lead healthier and more active lifestyles.

“These type of interventions take a long time to yield results, but they do work. Our mortality rates have fallen, life expectancy is rising, we have significantly reduced the number of early deaths from heart disease and stroke, and reduced early deaths from cancer at a faster rate than the national average.

“It is no coincidence that the healthier and more affluent pockets within Gateshead closely match those of more affluent areas in the country and social deprivation is the dominant factor here. That is why we are concerned at government proposals to cap the health funding allocations based on social deprivation indicators.”

She added that the government data for healthy eating and adult obesity was based on 2006-2008 figures, and the council would be conducting its own survey.

Councillor Adrian Knapper, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for health, said: “Historically, Stoke-on-Trent, as an old industrial city, has experienced high levels of deprivation which has been compounded by unhealthy lifestyle choices.

“However, there are now a record number of individuals quitting smoking. Stoke also has one of the best rates for the uptake of lifestyle checks and teenage pregnancy rates are falling.

“Overall the health of people in Stoke-on-Trent is improving, people are living longer with fewer people, including babies, dying each year.”

Inside the categories

Homelessness (2010/2011)

Homelessness was reported as the number of homeless households per 1,000 households. Basingstoke, the Suffolk coast and Waverley were the top three locations with scores of zero. Birmingham was the worst area for homelessness at 10.4.

Child obesity (2010/2011)

The affluent areas of Waverley, Richmond-upon-Thames and St Albans had the lowest levels of obesity amongst Year 6 pupil – with the three areas recording 9.8 per cent, 10.7 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively.

The London Borough of Southwark had the highest level at 26.5 per cent, followed by Hartlepool and Sandwell in the West Midlands, both on 25.9 per cent.

People diagnosed with diabetes (2010/2011)

East Lindsey in Lincolnshire had the highest percentage of diabetes sufferers at 8.1 per cent, followed by Walsall at 7.7 per cent and Slough at 7.5 per cent.

Cambridge had the lowest proportion at 3.3 per cent, followed by Richmond upon Thames at 3.4 per cent and Kensington & Chelsea at 3.6 per cent.

Acute sexually transmitted infections (2010)

The London Boroughs of Lambeth and Hackney had the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections at more than 2,000 per 100,000 members of the public. Indeed, the nine worst locations are all in London.

East Cambridgeshire had the lowest rate at 153 per 100,000 members of the public.

Adults Smoking (2010/2011)

Tandridge in Surrey reported the lowest percentage of adult smokers at 8.9 per cent. Other low levels were in Harborough in Leicestershire (9.3 per cent) and Rochford in Essex (10.4 per cent).

Corby in Northamptonshire has the highest percentage of smokers at 33.5 per cent, followed by Dover at 31.8 per cent and Knowsley at 31 per cent.

Smoking during pregnancy (2010/2011)

The figures for smoking during a pregnancy were worked out as the number of women who smoked at the time of delivery as a percentage of women who were smokers when they became pregnant.

Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster reported the lowest levels of smoking whilst pregnant at 3.1 women per 100 maternities. The highest proportion of women smoking during a pregnancy was reported in Blackpool, at 32.7 per 100 maternities, and Middlesbrough, at 27.2.

Hospital stays for self-harm (2010/2011)

Wycombe recorded the lowest number of emergency hospital admissions for self-harm per 100,000 residents at 49.6. Wokingham and Southwark were the second and third best scorers.

Middlesbrough had the highest rate at 509.8, followed by Blackpool at 455.8 and Lincoln at 447.4.

Hospital stays for alcohol related harm (2010/2011)

Wokingham, the Isle of Wight and East Bedfordshire had the lowest rate of people staying in hospital for alcohol-related harm per 100,000. The areas ranged from rates of 910 to 1,013.

Manchester had the highest rates at 3,276, followed by Burnley at 3,245 and Middlesbrough at 3,214.