The maps of life and death

by STEVE DOUGHTY, Daily Mail

These maps show how the chances of falling victim to a deadly disease are higher in some parts of the country than others.

Covering heart disease, strokes and the most common cancers, they provide a compelling illustration of how a man living in Dorset can expect to live longer than a man living in Glasgow.

They show how in some regions - particularly the old industrial belts and poorer sections of big cities - people are more vulnerable than those in more favoured districts.

There are also 'hot spots' for some diseases - towns, cities and districts which, often for complex reasons, show high rates of incidence.

For example, the borough of Rush-moor - including Farnborough and Aldershot in wealthy Hampshire --shows high levels of lung cancer among both men and women. The most likely cause is the concentration of soldiers in and around Aldershot.

The maps were prepared by the Office for National Statistics to help the Government's attempt to reduce 'health inequalities'.

They show that, broadly, your chances of a long life depend on where you stand on the social ladder, and that people in professional or managerial jobs are likely to survive longer than those in manual or poorly-paid work.

But there are other factors. As ONS figures showed last week, married people live longer than the single or the widowed, and the divorced are the most likely of all to suffer illness and early death.

Pollution and air quality also count. Some people believe water quality and weather are important and, of course, death rates may reflect better or worse NHS performance locally.

However, many of the obvious killers are associated with the way people behave. Scotland shows up badly for heart disease, lung cancer and alcohol-related death partly because the Scots are prone to binge-drinking more than those south of the border.

In common with people in other industrial areas, notably the North East, Merseyside, the North West and West Yorkshire, the Scots are heavier smokers than people elsewhere.

The pattern for some diseases, however, runs the other way. Breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men are more common in better-off areas. Some experts believe breast cancer may be more likely in women who have children later in life.

But there is no obvious explanation why prostate cancer is more likely in better-off men, nor why both breast and prostate cancer are recorded as 'very high' in North Wales, usually reckoned to be less prosperous.

Map researchers Clare Griffiths and Justine Fitzpatrick said: 'For areas with similar levels of deprivation, mortality rates were higher in the North of England than the South.'

The maps show in dark purple those areas where a disease is judged to be 'very high' compared to national averages. Light purple means 'high'; light green is 'low'; dark green is 'very low' and white means there is no significant difference from average rates.

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