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Living in a leafy suburb you dislike can be bad for your health

Living in a leafy suburb you dislike can be as bad for your health as residing in a crime-ridden slum

  • Those who dislike their towns suffer ill health similar to living in deprived areas
  • Despite areas having low crime, high employment and good schools 

Living in a pleasant leafy suburb which you dislike can be as bad for your health as living in a crime-ridden slum, a study has found.

A major research project found that people who felt unsafe or did not enjoy living in their area suffered ill-health similar to that of people living in a deprived area.

This was true despite their areas having low levels of crime, plenty of greenery, high levels of employment and good schools.

Living in a leafy suburb you dislike can be as bad for you as a crime-ridden slum (stock)

Researchers measured the perceptions of 11,000 people aged over 50 on the area in which they lived.

These included measuring feelings of belonging, safety, vandalism, cleanliness and how friendly or kind people were, and their health.

The researchers then compared the perception of the area to the government’s rating of an area – measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation.

This measures average incomes, employment levels, health, education, availability of housing and services, and crime.

Dr Stephen Jivraj, a researcher from UCL said it was well known that adults living in deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to have worse health.

But he added that the research found: ‘thinking your neighbourhood to be poorer quality could be equally as bad as it being poor quality.’ 

He said the effect only held true in ‘good’ areas. People who were unhappy with living in a deprived area did not suffer any additional ill health effects, he said.

Dr Jivraj said the message was that it’s not enough to improve an area – but people need to know things are changing too.

‘There is a lot of government activity trying to improve education and health, but you need people in the area to see or believe in the change,’ he said.

In 2016, according to the multiple deprivation index, compiled by the Department for Communties and Local Government, the most deprived area of England is Oldham, Lancashire, while the least deprived is Guildford in Surrey.

The research is published in the journal Health and Place.



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