The United Kingdom as a whole has relatively good health on a global scale. Out of a total of 145 countries in the Bloomberg Global Health Index, the UK placed 21st. This is likely due to the high availability of free health care and welfare initiatives in the UK. However, drugs, alcohol, and obesity are all factors that drag the UK out of the top 10 healthiest countries in western Europe.
For example, the nation of the UK is in the top 20 countries in the world with the highest alcohol consumption per capita. It is also the 13th worst nation in the world for binge drinking. Scotland in particular has historically suffered from substance abuse problems. For example, The Global Drugs Survey in 2016 found that Scotland had the worst binge drinking in the world. In recent years Scotland has been shown to have the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe. There is also a strikingly low life expectancy in some areas in the UK. For example;
- Blackpool (53.7)
- Belfast (54.4)
- Glasgow (54.6)
London is also experiencing a knife crime epidemic which has largely been attributed to a drop in police numbers. From 2019 to 2020 there were 15,930 knife crimes in London which rose from 9,750 from 2015 to 2016. In contrast, Glasgow, which was once known as the murder capital of Europe for its knife crime, has drastically dropped knife crime rates. This was after the Scottish Police set up a specialist branch known as the violence reduction unit. This unit tackled knife crime as a public health issue. In 2017 there were zero knife murders in Glasgow.
This all shows that although the United Kingdom is one of the healthiest places in the world to live in, it does have a lot to work on. Especially if it wants to become one of the healthiest nations in western Europe. Also, although there are some unhealthy areas in the UK, there are also some exceptionally healthy places to live. This article will look at the healthiest places to live in the UK and why.
Which UK areas have the highest average life expectancy?
As you can see England has the highest life expectancy of any country in the UK. By this metric England is the healthiest country in the UK to live for both males and females.
Data supplies by the most recent (pre-Covid) NOS statistics, 2018 – 2020
|Median Age of Death
|Median Age of Death
Surprisingly, despite the rise in knife murders, London has the highest average life expectancy in the UK. This was 80.9 for males and 84.7 for females for the years 2017 – 2019.
Why does London have the highest average life expectancy?
Perhaps by this metric, London is the healthiest place to live in the UK. This may be partly because the average wage is also higher in London than in any other place in the UK. Essentially more money means more choice in London. This choice or lack thereof can affect children from birth.
For example, children born into poverty are likely to be malnourished if their families cannot afford to buy food. Furthermore, healthy eating in poorer families is harder as it is more expensive, and generally requires better education about nutrition. This means that out of necessity and poor nutritional knowledge, many children and adults in poorer areas eat unhealthy foods. Owing to this, geographical data shows that fast food shops are vastly more prevalent in deprived areas.
This means that in more affluent areas such as London people are more prone to healthy eating. This is because they have access to better education, more money to aid healthy eating habits, and there is less chance of temptation from a fast food outlet. Health services are also more accessible to the wealthy. Instead of waiting on long NHS waiting lists, people can skip the queue by paying for private health services. This also goes for mental health services.
However, while there are plenty of affluent areas in London, there are also much poorer areas with residents having less access to good education, more prevalent fast food shops, and potentially more problems with drugs and alcohol, all of which have an effect on people’s health.
What is the happiest place in the UK?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the happiest place to live in is Woking. This is largely because, despite its proximity to London, Woking has a wealth of green spaces to purify the air and give people space to exercise. These green spaces also provide a place for families and children to relax and play, outside of the big city, without spending a penny. Being involved in nature changes the physiology of a body. In particular, it can change the function of your nervous, endocrine, and immune system.
It has been shown that being in nature can:
- Make you feel better emotionally
- Improve wellbeing
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce heart rate
- Reduce muscle tension
- Reduce the production of stress hormones
- Reduce mortality (speculated)
However, it must be said that the most impressive areas of nature do not see similar levels of happiness. The includes the hills of Wales and the Highlands of Scotland. However, this may be because of the large rainfall both areas experience. Also as areas of the highlands are so remote there are not many health services within easy access. This, coupled with a lack of social interaction is leading to worsening mental health in the highlands.
Woking on the other hand has a stable weather climate. There is much less rainfall and temperatures very rarely go below zero degrees all year. For example, the average temperature in the coldest month is between two and eight degrees Celsius.
However, despite its abundance of green spaces, Woking is anything but remote. There is an abundance of local services, local businesses, entertainment venues, and a bustling local community. Furthermore, as it is just outside London, people from Woking can commute to London to work for higher salaries -receiving the associated benefits of that. Furthermore, the rich culture and entertainment of London, are at the fingertips of Woking.
What is the fittest area in the UK?
Physical exercise has incredible benefits for health. For example, according to the NHS exercise can lower risks of:
- Coronary heart disease and stroke
- Type 2 diabetes
- Bowel cancer
- Breast cancer
- Early death
- Hip fractures
The importance of physical activity is perhaps best recognised in Birmingham, as shown by fitness experts OriGym. The study ranked each city on the availability of fitness/sports venues and clubs including:
- Swimming pools
- Tennis clubs
- Athletics clubs
- Cycling clubs
The report also included the volume of internet searches for home workouts per area. The findings also measured the number of restaurants given a healthy eating rating by Trip Advisor. As you can see below Birmingham was rated as the fittest city in the UK – all things combined. The city has; 182 gyms, 89 swimming pools, 79 tennis courts, and 83 cycling clubs.
|Overall Score (/483)
|Swimming Pool Score
|Tennis Court Score
|Athletics Clubs Score
|Cycling Clubs Score
|Home Workouts Score
|Healthy Restaurants Score
Which area has the least air pollution?
Clean air is invaluable to the health of society. Air pollution is often an invisible killer. As stated by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, polluted air can greatly increase the risk of lung cancer, stroke, respiratory disease and many more issues. Other environmental factors such as traffic pollution can affect the brain development of children. In particular nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon affect cognitive development.
Undoubtedly the purity of air is higher in rural areas in comparison to densely populated cities. Pollutants and more evenly spread and dispersed by CO2 sapping plant life. As to be expected the best air quality can be found in the Scottish highlands. This is because this is the most rural area, with the most outdoor areas, versus housing and traffic.
Where has the lowest rate of Obesity in the UK?
London further stamps its place as the healthiest place to live in the UK using another metric. Obesity. The top three least obese areas in England exist in London. These are:
- Hammersmith & Fulham 41.6%
- Westminster 44.0%
- Kensington and Chelsea 44.1%
- Camden is also fifth with 48.2%
These low obesity levels could be a clue to London having such a high life expectancy, despite having some of the worst air pollution in the UK. Furthermore, it underlines the idea that wealthier people eat more nutritious food as these are some of the UK’s most affluent areas.
Obesity can increase the risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
People in more deprived areas are more at risk of developing child, and adult obesity.
The healthiest place to live: Summary
The UK as a whole is far from the healthiest place in western Europe. However, it still places moderately high on a world scale. This is because the UK has excellent benefits that are not seen in much of the world. This is because healthcare is completely free (paid for by tax contributions). However, in some areas severely dangerous health factors bring the nation as a whole down.
For example, there are clear and substantial differences in the health of poor and affluent areas. For instance, obesity and substance use is higher in these areas. So, there is more physical health morbidity in these areas, driving the average life span down. For example, in Blackpool, the expected life span is only 53.7. The lifespan is highest in England, and London in particular. This was shown by the official national health index by ONS. This is despite London having some of the worst pollution in the UK and rising levels of knife crime.
London has the highest wages anywhere in the UK. This means many people have better access to health services via the private route. It has also been shown that more affluent areas display better lifestyle factors such as eating more nutritious food. As to be expected the most affluent areas in London (UK also) have the lowest levels of obesity. This arguably makes London the healthiest place to live in the UK. This result also shows regional inequalities as more deprived areas have poorer access to health treatment and good food. This is both a geographical and financial reason. For example, deprived areas are swamped with fast food outlets and residents typically have to wait on long NHS waiting lists for treatment instead of paying privately.
Using a different health index metric, Woking could be described as Britain’s healthiest area. This is because it is rated as the happiest place in the UK to live. Mental well-being is higher here than anywhere else.
Birmingham is the fittest area in Great Britain. It has the highest combination of; fitness/sports venues and clubs, home workout internet searches, and healthy restaurants.
The Scottish highlands have the best air quality in the UK. However, people in rural areas like these suffer from a lack of health services – in particular mental health services.