Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why women live longer than men

It’s always heartening to read that things in this neck of the woods are better than they are elsewhere in the country.

Crumbs of comfort, maybe, but it does give you a slightly self-satisfied feeling to know that you were either born here or could afford to move here at some time in the past. You couldn’t now, but let that be.

Anyway, a report from the Association of Public Health Observatories adds grist to that particular mill.

(What is grist, while we’re on the subject? Has anyone ever seen it? Can you buy it from the market? Can you set fire to it? Does it bounce? Answers on a postcard...)

Anyway. “People in Bath,” we read, “live up to two years longer than the national average.

“Life expectancy for men in Bath and north east Somerset is 80, while for women it is 83.5.

“Which is significantly higher than the averages for England of 77.9 years for men and 82 years for women.”

So, as far as men are concerned, is 80 “significantly” higher than 77.9? Well maybe. The trusty Chronicle Towers calculator (it’s one of those ones with mechanical buttons and a hand crank and it doesn’t need batteries) was pressed into action to do a bit of statistical analysis.

Let’s crunch some numbers and find a percentage: 80 minus 77.9 is 2.1. And 77.9 divided by 100 is 0.779. And 0.779 times 2.1 is 1.6359.

Rounding up, men in Bath live 1.64 per cent longer than the national average. For women, the percentage is smaller: just 1.23.

(Guess who’s been helping the kids with their maths revision? Guess who’s got a brain like a bowl full of mashed potato? So please don’t trouble to write in if you think these sums are wrong. Enough tears have been shed already.)

There’s no obvious reason why women should live longer than men. Grandma Dixon, of blessed memory, used to claim that it was because women sit down and stand up every time they go to the loo.

This means, she theorised, that over an average lifetime women do more exercise then us chaps, and are therefore haler, heartier and more prone to bouts of longevity.

Several hours of internet searches have produced no confirmation of this breakthrough in medical thinking.

(There were a lot of pictures of cute kittens though, and a video of someone falling over. Grandma Dixon wouldn’t have approved of the World Wide Web.)

Be that as it may, there is good news in Bath and north east Somerset Health Report 2010 . (PDF, 600Kb).

We eat more healthily, we’re less likely to smoke or binge drink. Our children are less likely to be obese, although strangely they’re also less likely to be physically active than the average English child.

For more information, download a PDF file of the complete report from

It treats statistics in a far less cavalier fashion than the present writer, and suggests that those differences in life expectancy are indeed significant.

But on the theories of Grandma Dixon, it remains mercifully silent.

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