A recently published map of life expectancy in Greater Manchester had a bigger impact on Mr BOTRA than it did on me. Whereas I have long had a sense of my own mortality and tried to live every day as if it might be my last, this hasn’t really rubbed off on Mr BOTRA. It took these figures from the University of Manchester for the short time we might have left to hit home. The pictorial depiction of life expectancy using the Greater Manchester Metro tram map is a good way to demonstrate how deprivation affects life expectancy. Our nearest tram stop is Anchorage and the map suggests that while I might survive until the grand old age of 74 years, Mr BOTRA will pop his clogs when he is just 69.
Of course, as a scientist, he understands that life expectancy is an average and includes all those who die shortly after birth or as young adults and the figures do not actually represent the life span he can expect to achieve. This map and the figures are useful for public health campaigners but it doesn’t really help us plan for retirement and if we really expected to die at 74 and 69 we would have retired long ago!
As a non-smoker, cyclist and hill walker and certainly not poor, Mr BOTRA can expect to live longer than those who live a less privileged life and yet how these lifestyle choices and genes interact to decide a life-span is complex. These thoughts of mortality got us thinking about how the urban area we live in where the air quality is poor might affect our health. We love the vibrancy of living in the city and just hope that our regular forays to the hills and the countryside mitigate this air pollution. Of course, we might be misguided, only time will tell.
What is a tragedy is that in England the wealthy continue to have considerably better health outcomes than the poor, as the map below shows:
Men and women aged 65 years in Manchester have the lowest life expectancy compared to other areas of the UK – men 15.9 years; women 18.8 years. This compares to 21.6 years for men in Kensington and Chelsea and 24.6 years for women in Camden. Healthy life expectancy (years of life in good health) can be as low as 54.4 years old for women in Manchester, compared to 72.2 years in Richmond upon Thames.