Have you ever wondered which region in the UK tops the charts in health metrics? Or how does your local area fare when pitted against the rest regarding public health indicators? In this feature, we delve into a new study that shows which are the healthiest and unhealthiest areas in the UK, according to data obtained from The Office for National Statistics.
A recent study by the health and wellness experts at bluehorizonbloodtests.co.uk has assessed various UK local authorities, government districts, boroughs, and counties to ascertain which regions are performing well in the health stakes and which are not.
Topping the UK’s healthiest list for 2023 is South Hams, which secured an impressive score of 80 out of 100. In contrast, the study revealed that Peterborough was the least healthy area in 2023, scoring 40 out of 100. Despite efforts in promoting public health, Harlow, although not at the bottom, needs to up its game as it scored a close 56.8.
The rankings were based on a meticulous analysis of 12 distinct criteria: air quality (PM2.5 concentration), adult smoking rates, alcohol misuse, the prevalence of cancer, diabetes, drug misuse, healthy eating habits, high blood pressure, kidney and liver diseases, adults with mental health problems, obesity rates, and physical activity levels.
For each criterion, the company assigned a score up to 100. These scores were combined and adjusted, producing a final score for each area. All the data utilised for this assessment originated from The Office for National Statistics.
- Air Quality: Cleaner air regions like South Lakeland and Eden have commendably low PM2.5 concentrations, suggesting air quality might significantly influence overall health.
- Smoking’s Limited Impact: Sevenoaks, despite its low 4.8% adult smoking rate, ranks 8th, showing that low smoking alone doesn’t guarantee top health rankings.
- Dietary Habits: High fruit and vegetable consumption in South Hams and Derbyshire Dales possibly contributes to their top health standings.
- Mental Health’s Nuanced Role: Richmond upon Thames ranks 7th healthiest despite a relatively high 8.3% of its population reporting mental health conditions.
- Importance of Physical Activity: Nearly all top areas, led by South Hams at 76.3%, highlight the crucial role of physical activity in health.
- Obesity’s Widespread Grip: Even in the top-ranking South Hams, 50.8% of the population is overweight or obese, indicating a broader national health concern.
This study offers an in-depth perspective into the health dynamics of various UK regions. It serves as a pivotal resource for understanding the overall health conditions and well-being patterns across different parts of the country.
The 20 Healthiest Areas in the UK in 2023
Located on the south coast of Devon, South Hams ranks as our study’s healthiest area. It has a final score of 80 due in part to excellent scores across categories, including the number of people who self-reported having diabetes (4.2%), cancer (2.6%), and kidney or liver diseases (1.1%). Those in South Hams also have higher activity rates, with 76.3% of adults staying physically active.
South Lakeland is a close second to South Hams thanks to its great air quality, with an annual mean of PM 2.5 of 4.9. It also has an extremely low percentage of people with kidney and liver disease at .6% of the city’s population. 57.5% of adults in the region are classified as overweight or obese according to BMI.
The Derbyshire Dales
The Derbyshire Dales is located in north-central England near Sheffield and ranks third with 76.3 points. The air quality is poorer than the top two cities at 6.2 PM2.5, and there is an increased number of adults over 18 who smoke at 13.3% of the population.
Eden is located in Cumbria in the north of England, and it’s a beautiful area surrounded by lakes and mountains. Part of why it ranks fourth on this list is because of the region’s great air quality (4.5 PM2.5).
The Richmondshire district in North Yorkshire is a beautiful region known for Aysgarth Falls, The Forbidden Corner, and several castles. It ranks fifth on our list, with a final score of 76.1 out of 80. People living in Richmondshire have low rates of cancer (1.6% of the population), diabetes (3.4% of the population), and kidney and liver diseases (.7 %).
Royal Tunbridge Wells
At number six, Royal Tunbridge Wells is a charming town in Kent, England, just around 30 miles from London. The walkable town keeps people active, with 72.2% of adults staying physically active. This can be seen in a relatively low overweight/obesity rate of 58.7%.
Richmond upon Thames
Richmond upon Thames is a residential district that borders the Thames River. Ranking seventh on our list, it has a high final score of 75.3 due to low levels of cancer (3.1% of the population), kidney and liver diseases (1.2% of the population), diabetes (3.9% of the population), smokers (8.2% of adults), and BMIs classified as overweight or obese (45.5%).
Sevenoaks is just outside Greater London in a scenic setting. It has gardens, local shops, fields, castles, and more. Since it’s such a charming area, it’s a tourist spot and ranks high on this list with 75.3 points out of 80.
The borough of Waverly ranks ninth on our list with 75.1 out of 80 possible points. Waverly scores highly for several reasons, including low incidences of drug misuse (1.5 offences per 1,000), high blood pressure (16.6%), kidney and liver diseases (1.6%), and mental health conditions (9.8%).
Harrogate, a tourist destination, made it into the top 10 on our list thanks to earning 75 points on our 80-point scale. This spa town in North Yorkshire has good air quality (5.5 PM 2.5), which may be why the town has a high percentage of active adults (73.9%). 62.7% of adults say they eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily, which may correlate to the low number of people with kidney and liver disease (1.2%).
Elmbridge is an affluent area that borders Greater London. It is known for having picturesque countryside and multiple tourist destinations, which may be why it scores high on our list. It achieved the eleventh rank and scored 74.1 points.
Rutland is a ceremonial county located in the East Midlands. It’s famous for having the largest artificial lake in the United Kingdom within its boundaries. As a result, it has many active adults at 74% of the population.
Allerdale is another non-metropolitan district within Cumbria, England. The area falls within the Lake District, a beautiful region with mountains, lakes, and abundant nature.
Craven, a non-metropolitan district in North Yorkshire, ranked 14th on our list with 73.4 points. It ranks high due to a low percentage of people reporting mental health conditions (12%), kidney and liver diseases (1.7%), drug use (2.2%), and being overweight or obese (55%).
With 73.4 points, West Oxfordshire ranks at number 15 on our list of the healthiest areas in the UK. West Oxfordshire’s district contains towns such as Burford, Chipping Norton, and Woodstock, and it is home to Blenheim Palace, the Cotswold Wildlife Parks and Gardens, and Chastleton House.
Bath and Northeast Somerset
Bath and Northeast Somerset are known for their historical buildings and Roman baths.
As a tourist destination, the area ranks 16th on our list, scoring 73.2 points. There is a high activity rate among people in this region, with 70.5% of adults staying physically active. That activity may be why there are low instances of drug misuse (1.7%) and kidney and liver disease (1.4%). The percentage of people over 18 who smoke is 9.7%, which may contribute to lower rates of cancer (3.2%).
Bordering the Bristol Channel and home to many of the farmlands supporting England, West Devon is near the bottom of our top 20 with a ranking of 17 based on 73.1 points out of 80. West Devon scores in the top 20 thanks to a high percentage of adults who stay physically active (75.5%).
Ranking 18th on our list, Hambleton, a village and civil parish in Rutland, collected 73.1 points out of 80. It scored well for air quality (5.1 PM2.5) and has a relatively low percentage of people 18 and older who smoke (10.7%). Those two factors could explain why a low rate of people reported having cancer (3.4%).
North Hertfordshire is a rural area with multiple villages and towns. It is home to Hitchin Lavender, the Knebworth House, and Royston Cave.
Despite that, the region has a low number of self-reported smokers (9.5%), which is reflected in low cancer rates (3%). There are also low rates of kidney and liver disease (1.2%) and diabetes (6.5%), which could be linked to a low percentage of people being overweight or obese (55.5%) and a high percentage of physically active adults (70.7%).
At the bottom of our top 20 list is South Oxfordshire. This region covers nearly 260 square miles and reaches from the edge of the City of Oxford to Reading in the south. Its four primary towns include Thame, Wallingford, Henley, and Didcot. This region is primarily rural, which may account for the high percentage of physically active adults (72.4%).
20 Least Healthiest Areas in the UK 2023
Peterborough (Score: 40)
Besides poor air quality (PM2.5 at 7), it witnesses a 28.7% cancer self-report rate. Nearly 60.7% of its population have a BMI classified as overweight or obese.
Gosport (Score: 50.9)
High alcohol-specific hospitalisations at 765.7/100k pairs with a significant diabetes rate of 35.4%. Despite these, 59.3% manage to consume the recommended fruit and vegetables.
Portsmouth (Score: 52.1)
Alarming alcohol-related hospitalisations stand at 990.5/100k, yet its 65.4% overweight rate is still below many others on this list.
Liverpool (Score: 52.6)
17.8% of adults smoke, with a high drug-related offence rate of 14.3/1k. Its overweight rate sits at 65.9%.
Kingston upon Hull (Score: 53.5)
22% adult smokers, with alcohol admissions at 858.3/100k and a 70.7% overweight rate.
Knowsley (Score: 54.4)
High PM2.5 levels at 8.1, alarming 74% overweight or obese statistic, and a drug-related offence rate of 8.6/1k.
Gloucester (Score: 54.8)
19.4% of adults smoke. High figures for diabetes (18.8%) and high blood pressure (31.3%).
Blackpool (Score: 55.2)
Notably, high alcohol-related hospitalisations at 1282/100k. Nutrition seems to be an issue, with only 44.7% eating recommended fruit and vegetables.
Nottingham (Score: 55.9)
A high percentage (53.1%) of people reported mental health conditions. Drug misuse stands at 6.6/1k.
Great Yarmouth (Score: 56.5)
Significant alcohol admissions at 622.8/100k and an 18.5% diabetes rate.
Harlow (Score: 56.8)
A high % smoking rate of 20.5% paired with a 73.5% overweight or obese population.
Lancaster (Score: 57.1)
Strikingly high diabetes rate of 46.9%. 66.1% are overweight or obese.
Hammersmith and Fulham (Score: 57.6)
The PM2.5 level is at 9.1. About 49.4% of its population report mental health conditions. Physical activity is higher, with 74.5% being active.
Southampton (Score: 57.8)
Records an astounding 2,275.8/100k alcohol-related hospitalisations.
Hartlepool (Score: 57.9)
Only 51.3% of adults are physically active, which may contribute to the 74.6% overweight or obese rate.
Melton (Score: 58.1)
Notable cancer rate at 12.5%. 56.4% report high blood pressure, and 60.6% consume recommended fruits and vegetables.
York (Score: 58.1)
49.8% of its residents report mental health issues, and high blood pressure is prevalent at 53.6%.
Telford and Wrekin (Score: 58.2)
A considerable number of people with cancer at 7.1%. 70.6% of its population are overweight or obese.
Sandwell (Score: 58.9)
Drug misuse at 2.3/1k. 70.8% of its population is overweight, and only 47.4% eat the recommended fruits and vegetables.
Mansfield (Score: 59.1)
Alcohol hospitalisations are at 705.6 per 100,000, and 67.6% of its population are overweight or obese.
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