Mortality map reveals how Britons are likely to die

October 19th, 2008 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 19 (IANS) The geographical pattern of mortality in Great Britain over the past 25 years has been mapped for the first time, revealing how each Briton is most likely to die depending on where he or she lives. The Grim Reaper’s Road Map: An Atlas of Mortality in Britain shows exactly how people’s deaths are affected by where they live, how much money they have, the type of work they do and their lifestyle.

The maps, to be published Monday by Policy Press, show patterns that are very different from those created in previous attempts to understand the spread of death across the country.

“Our maps show a person’s chances of dying from a particular cause in a particular place, compared to the national average chance for that cause of death, having standardised the distributions of population by age and sex in each area,” The Guardian daily Sunday quoted the report’s co-author Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, as saying.

The maps show deaths from a range of causes, including heart attack, cancer, murder, electrocution and death during surgery.

“The average age of death since 1981 is 74.4 years; 71.2 for men and 77.4 for women,” said Dorling.

“While in the best neighbourhoods, including Eastbourne West (on the south coast of England), 42 percent of those who died were over 80 years old, in others, including Glasgow Easterhouse, 25 percent were under 60 years of age.

“Across much of the south of England outside London, and in a few isolated enclaves of prosperity in the north, Wales and Scotland, people’s chances of dying each year have been up to 30 percent lower than the average since 1981.”

What causes most of the variations as shown on these maps are not genetic factors, said Dorling, but environmental issues and whether we smoke, drink and exercise.

“We hope that many of the maps will encourage readers to reflect on how unfair life is, even in a prosperous country, because we discovered that the most important environmental factor today is relative poverty,” he said.

“Death rates are higher where people are poorer. Internal migration is another key factor, making different parts of Britain increasingly home to either the poor or the rich.”

Dorling studied 14,833,696 death records to produce the maps, which show the standardised mortality ratios of every town and city in Britain from 1981 to 2004.

The first map in the atlas is of all deaths that have taken place in Britain over the past 24 years. This is then broken down into nine causes, including cancer and transport-related deaths. Those maps are then subdivided into 99 categories.

Cervical cancer is most likely to kill those living in a belt stretching across the north of England, from Merseyside to Grimsby. Incidence of death from brain cancer, however, is clustered in the south of Aberdeen and around Berwickshire on the Scotland-England border.

The maps also reveal clusters of more unusual death. Most people who die by choking on food live in Morpeth and St Albans East. Rates of accidental drowning are highest in the southwest of England and south Wales, where coastal waters tend to be warmest.

Overall, the maps reveal that 86 million years of life were lost in Britain between 1981 and 2004 due to people dying before they reached the age of 75.

Murder accounts for just 7,677 cases a year over the 24-year period: six a week and 0.05 percent of all deaths, with a concentration on the west coast of Scotland.

Five to nine-year-olds living in the north of the country are most likely to die from transport-related incidents. Childhood cancers, however, are the most common causes of death in the same group in the south.

Between 10 to 24 years of age, the largest cause of death is transport-related, most commonly road traffic accidents.

But for the 15-19 age band there are large geographical differences, with most teenagers in urban areas such as London and parts of Scotland dying from suicide or drug overdoses.

In Glasgow, however, murder is the most common cause of death in that age group.

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