Dorset is the birthplace of Thomas Hardy. Hardy loved the Christmas season and his novels, short stories and poems are full of references to it. My favourite Hardy novel “Under the Greenwood Tree” begins on Christmas Eve.

Dorset now has another attraction. It has the highest average life expectancy in the UK with men living to 83 years and women to 86.4 years.

The Office for National Statistics has recently published its “Interim Life Tables, England and Wales, 2010-2012”.

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-325699

The headline points are that life expectancy in England and Wales has increased by more than a year in the past decade.

However, the distribution of life expectancy across England is still characterised by a north-south divide with people in local areas in the north generally living shorter lives than those in the south.

Boys are also narrowing the gap on girls when it comes to life expectancy in England and Wales.

The ONS reports that baby girls born 30 years ago were expected to live six years longer than boys. Now it is less than four.

This is because fewer men now work in heavy manual labour which historically had high death rates as a result of industrial accidents. They are also less prone to diseases that affected workers in certain industries, such as mining.

In contrast, women who might once have stayed at home have taken on the stress of working. In addition, many women also care for children or ageing relatives or both as well as providing for their family financially.

Kathy Gyngell, a research fellow with the Centre for Policy Studies, observes that

“We are increasingly seeing more women suffering from what were once male diseases – heart disease, high blood pressure, even baldness”.

In case you were wondering men in Blackpool have the lowest average life expectancy at 73.8 years while the lowest for women is in Manchester at 79.3 years.

As well as Christmas, Thomas Hardy also had a view on old age:

“The value of old age depends upon the person who reaches it. To some men of early performance it is useless. To others, who are late to develop, it just enables them to finish the job”.

Florence Emily Hardy, “The Later Years of Thomas Hardy” (Macmillan, 1930).

To late developers everywhere, Happy Christmas!