Friday 26 August 2016

Britain is a country with a county called Kent and a district called Shepway which is no place for old men

Researchers from the family history website 'Ancestry' have looked at England and Wales death indexes from 1837 to 2007 and during that time span, average life expectancy across the whole of Britain rose from just 40 to 78. Obviously, old men and women in these parts of Britain are living a lot longer now than they did in the past in response to better standards of living and advances in healthcare. There is, however, one district which lags stubbornly behind the rest when it comes to longevity at it is Shepway in the County of Kent. Here the average life expectancy over the 170 year period is just 41 years.

On the other hand, those lucky to be born in the coastal market town of Teignbridge in the County of Devon, had a life expectancy which was twice as long, averaging 82 years and Colwyn in Wales and Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire were not far behind with an average lifespan of 81.

Shepway is a local government district in Kent, with its council based in the seaside town of Folkestone. It has a population of 109,452 and although it has a proportion of old men and women past the age of 70, it is not a large share. It is not surprising to find that, in economic terms, Shepway is the third most deprived area in Kent, after Thanet and Swale. Like them, it has a high rate of unemployment, poor educational attainment figures and with the majority of businesses being small operations.

In addition to the towns of Folkestone, Hythe, Dymchurch and New Romney the men and women of Shepway who are destined not to live long lives live in villages with ancient names : Brenzett, Paddlesworth, Postling, Snargate, Stelling Minnis and Stowting. If there was wealth here once, it has long since gone, since Romney Marsh once had a number of communities extensively built in the medieval period and 17th century as centres of the Romney Marsh wool trade.

The fact that the old men and women of Shepway will not live long lives is doubtless connected to the fact that many of them began life in poverty as indeed 23% of Shepway children do today, against a national figure of 20.2%.

Britain, a country where longevity is not only linked to the accident of birth but also the accident of location.

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