Friday, June 30, 2017

Being Healthy will Kill You

Living in a healthy environment is the best way to ensure that you die young. That may sound counter-intuitive but it seems to be borne out by the Geographic Data Lab's new Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards map.

The Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards map shows the least and most healthy places to live in Great Britain. The Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards (AHAH) is a new index for measuring how ‘healthy’ neighbourhoods are based on the quality of the environment, for example local air pollution. The index however also considers the ease of access to health services and the availability of 'unhealthy' retail outlets, such as fast food restaurants and pubs.

You can study the AHAH map in detail on the interactive map version at CDRC Maps.

The AHAH is an interesting new way to assess how healthy an environment actually is. For example, many people think of the countryside as being a healthy place to live. However the AHAH index rates many rural neighborhoods very poorly because of their relatively poor access to health care services.

The AHAH map on the left and the ONS life expectancy map on the right

There could however be a flaw in the AHAH methodology. If we compare the AHAH map with the Office for National Statistics life expectancy maps many areas which are shown to be healthy on the AHAH map have a very low life expectancy. On the life expectancy map you can see that the Scottish Central Belt, South Wales and the M62 corridor in the north of England all have areas with some of the lowest life expectancy in Great Britain. On the AHAH map these areas score among some of the most healthy places to live.

Correlation is not causation but the AHAH map does seem to suggest that living in a healthy area could kill you.

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