Life Expectancy – the elephant in the room

The Crawley News has obtained comparitive figures for Life Expectancy across the town. There is (and this is not a surprise to me as I’ve seen similar figures in the past) a significant difference between the highest and the lowest wards:

Maidenbower 83.5
Southgate 77.1

The low figure for Southgate can be partially explained by the disproportionate number of residential care homes. So they don’t compare my neck of the woods with Maidy, but they take the next lowest, Bewbush (77.6).

Now, they make the usual statistical error of mixing up the people with the place – by suggesting that if you move, it will improve your prospects. Of course, the figures are an average based on the people currently living there. If you personally have a low life expectancy, moving to Maidenbower or Pound Hill is not likely to increase your time in this mortal coil (although it might slightly reduce their average…). Fair enough, it’s a standard misconception and it’s easily done. Oh, and these are the expectancy at birth based on data from 1998 to 2002, so it’s not even relevant to people born outside Crawley, or before 1998!!

Of course, it’s not like we can actually get accurate figures for life expectancy for areas which had virtually nobody living in them less than 60 years ago (most of Crawley), but we can do for the people who live there now.

However, when comparing Bewbush and Maidenbower, and casting around for possible reasons, they are a bit blinkered. A Maidenbower resident jokes that it is ‘easier to be stabbed in Bewbush’, which is particularly crass (I don’t know anyone who has been stabbed in Bewbush, but I did once work with a guy who got stabbed in Horsham – and it was easy for him as he was the wrong colour). A Bewbush resident also mentions crime and violence. Another Maidenbowerite who uses the word ‘one’ for ‘I’ puts it down to diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, these are possible contributory factors (although it’s not like people in nice areas don’t get murdered, such as in Poles Lane.

The one factor that is completely missed is the also one that tends to also influence crime, diet, lifestyle etc.

Wealth, or the lack of it.

Poverty levels in Bewbush are much higher than in Maidenbower. The correlation between income and life expectancy is very close. Similarly, Broadfield has higher levels of deprivation (although it also has some more comfortable parts), and Pound Hill is also relatively wealthy.

However, there are pockets of deprivation in Pound Hill, and even in Maidenbower. The average life expectancy for those people will likely be lower than for their near neighbours.

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