RESIDENTS in some of the most deprived areas of Swindon can expect to die up to 17 years younger than their counterparts in the town’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, alarming new figures have revealed.
According to the statistics released by Public Health England, women in the Parks have the lowest life expectancy in town, with the average dying at 78 years old. This is compared to Grange Park where female residents live to more than 95 years old.
In Okus and Kingshill, they reach on average 79 years old.
Men did not fare well either in areas like the Parks and nearby Walcot.
In comparison to Grange Park, where most of the male population lives to more than 87, further east in Broadgreen and Queenstown the majority only reach 71 years of age.
The figure is slightly higher but remains among the lowest in Pinehurst, Rodbourne Cheney and Walcot East, with a life expectancy of between 73 and 74 years.
This state of affairs came as a shock to some councillors who demanded immediate action be taken and the issue be approached under a completely new light.
Coun Roderick Bluh, a member of Swindon Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, said the problem was not a health matter, as was previously thought, but a deep-rooted social issue.
In order for things to change, he added, educating more deprived populations was key.
“The figures are quite stark,” he said.
“People on the lowest income are the ones who have the worst life expectancy and the worst chronic illnesses. And they smoke and drink more.
“It suggests that people on low income who are spending a lot of money on cigarettes and alcohol are not spending enough money on healthy food. They should be maximising their income.
“We are all responsible for maintaining our own wellbeing and they are making their lot worse. We need to help them and educate them about making better choices.
“At the moment it’s all health focused but it’s a social problem.
“It’s a very difficult subject to deal with but it should be tackled. The discrepancy is shocking in this day and age and the facts seem to suggest that personal responsibility and education are key to this.”
But the Rev Linda Fletcher, vicar at St John’s Church in Park North said blaming residents’ smoking and drinking habits was ‘unfair’ and evaded the real issues at stake.
“The problem is poverty and blaming it on smoking and drinking is not fair,” said the 41-year-old from Park North.
“If you’re living on a really tight budget it’s very difficult to feed your family healthily.
“In poor areas life expectancy is lower so I expected it to be lower here but it’s going to get worse with the cuts to benefits and increase the need for foodbanks. Families are struggling to feed themselves well with things like the rise in fuel bills and that has an impact on life expectancy.
“We know that people have to choose between heating and food on the table.
“It is outrageous that there is such a differential rate.”
Life expectancy in Grange Park does not only surpass that in every other area of Swindon but is the fourth highest in the entire country.
According to Public Health England’s figures, women in Oakhurst, Taw Hill, Redhouse, Haydon End, St Andrew’s Ridge, Ash Brake and Abbey Meads can also expect to live well into their 90s with life expectancies among the top 10 in the country.
Sam Burnley, project support worker at The Shop in Cavendish Square, Park North, added: “I’m really surprised by these figures. You’d think that within the locality of a town there would not be such a discrepancy.
“In Parks a large percentage of people are on benefits and don’t have the money to buy fresh fruit and veg and prepare healthy meals.
“It is true that people on low income do smoke and drink but there are no incentives here for them to be healthy.
“It is a vicious circle. They can’t get a job, they get low and then drink, smoke or take drugs.
“But at least the people of Parks are still trying to make it a better place. They want to make it better.”