CHILDREN growing up in Jersey can expect to live years less than their counterparts in the wealthiest parts of the UK, new research has revealed.
Jersey’s average life expectancy of 83.7 years would sit 228th out of 650 when compared against individual UK parliamentary constituencies, which a local health professional said highlighted the Island’s social inequalities.
While the Island average was ahead of the UK as a whole – which has a national average life expectancy of just over 80 years – occupational health practitioner Dr Chris Edmond said local-level comparison was more revealing.
Life expectancy in the wealthiest UK constituencies, including in Hampstead, north London, is three years longer than in Jersey.
The Island has a similar life expectancy to Scarborough and Whitby (83.5) and Tynemouth (83). And many parts of the south-west and south-east of England had higher life expectancies than Jersey.
‘When you compare it with the detail of the UK we are certainly not among the best. The figure is masking the Island’s inequalities,’ Dr Edmond said, adding that his own professional experience, seeing Islanders on behalf of employers, confirmed the relationship between factors like poor-quality accommodation, poor diet, lack of physical exercise and health problems.
He added that the life expectancy information also failed to take account of the health issues of transient workers who did not remain in the Island long enough to be captured in such data.
Dr Edmond, medical director at occupational health specialists Work Health Jersey, took the Jersey data and compared it with a UK analysis conducted by campaign group Health Equals. They looked at information from the Office of National Statistics to establish life expectancy for new babies across all 650 UK parliamentary constituencies. It revealed that being born in one of the wealthiest areas in the UK added 12 years to a person’s life, and revealed a north-south divide, with 15 of the 20 highest life expectancies being in London and the south-east, while 17 of the 20 lowest were in Scotland. The seven worst were all in Glasgow.
Dr Edmond acknowledged that it was not currently possible to drill down into the Island’s data in the same way but he said it was likely that Jersey’s figure of 83.7 years did not reflect an accurate picture for the Island.
‘I think it is really interesting that we think we are good but what is lacking is the ability to drill down into the detail. We may not be quite as good as we think,’ Dr Edmond said.
Public health director Professor Peter Bradley said that actual rankings were difficult to interpret because of the demographic in such a small area. But he added: ‘The main [way] we could improve our ranking is by tackling the inequality that exists. The biggest issue is inequality,’ he said.
Professor Bradley has drawn attention in recent reports, including his first annual report as director of public health, to the connection between social inequality and poor health outcomes.
Commenting on the Jersey figures, newly elected Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel chair Deputy Rob Ward said it was important with any data of this kind to consider the uses to which it was put but he continued: ‘We need to have all the information to look beyond the data at particular groups and demographics to look at whether social inequality is playing a part and, if so, to consider the health care issues.’
He added that it was the sort of data that could help inform the forthcoming direction of the panel’s work.