8 October, 2013
Where in England would you think people have the longest average life expectancy? The wealthy suburbs of Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames? Those basking in the fresh air and rural nature of the Lake District? The pensioner-honeypot of Bournemouth, affectionately nicknamed 'God's Waiting Room'?
Well, if you said any of these you'd be wrong, as it's humble Wokingham that has the enviable status of having Britain's best life expectancy rates. In fact, Wokingham came top out of 150 local authorities for life expectancy, with a lower rate of premature death per 100,000 inhabitants than anywhere in the country. Not only that, Wokingham ranked in the top five when it came to statistics on heart disease, strokes and liver conditions as well.
Put another way, for every 100,000 Wokingham residents, only 200 will die before their 75th birthday. At the other end of the spectrum, the figure for Manchester is more than twice this, at 455.
So what is it that's made Wokingham so healthy?
The first point of consideration for a happy, healthy population should be to see how many people smoke. Nationwide, the figure is around 20 per cent, whilst in Wokingham it's down to just 13.8 per cent.
Similarly, quality of life is positive in Wokingham. Around 84 per cent own their homes, with property values being among the best in the country. As such, the typical Wokingham resident is a high earner, being in the top five per cent of earning bands for the UK.
Children are also well catered for, with the town playing host to a number of good schools with positive OFSTED reports. Not only that, a short commute away are the revered universities of London and Reading.
Others have, quite simply, put Wokingham down as having the best of both worlds, with some of the greatest urban and rural settings on offer in the UK just a stone's throw away.
Nowhere is perfect
All of the above makes Wokingham seem like a healthy nirvana, full to the brim with happy 'Cereal Box' families, giving toothy grins as they take the pure breed pooch out for a walk. So far, so Stepford. But all may not be quite as the statistics suggest, at least for those who delve a little deeper under the surface.
Going back to the smoking statistics, whilst they may be at 13.8 per cent for the borough as a whole, this rises to 28 per cent when only taking manual workers into consideration. Likewise, the less-well-off are also deemed to be more likely to suffer with anxiety and depression. In fact, the difference between life expectancy of the affluent and the poor is between 13 and 14 years.
This all considered, there are certainly discrepancies within Wokingham, but there is also plenty of evidence to show that the area is - quite simply - one of the best locations for the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants in all of England.