No, living in Bexhill does not make you live longer
In fact, people who live in Bexhill On Sea do seem to live a long time.
Now that reputation has been borne out by official figures, after the first detailed analysis of last year’s census showed that the Sussex resort has more centenarians per head of population than anywhere else in the country
According to a breakdown of returns published yesterday, there are 66 people over the age of 100 in the borough of Rother, which centres on Bexhill.
A further 1,722 residents are in their 90s, with almost 7,000 in their 80s out of a total population of 90,600.
Remarkably, the second and third highest concentrations of centenarians are in neighbouring Worthing and Eastbourne while the Arun area of Sussex also makes it into the top 10 alongside the Scilly Isles, Torbay and Bouremouth.
However, while it is actually possible that living there does make you live a long time that’s almost certainly not what is going on here. Rather, that people who have already lived a long time go to live there.
Look at that list of towns: they’re all places famed as places to retire to. Who are the people who move when they retire? Well, they’re certainly the people who have lived long enough to actually retire. So their average age at death is always going to be higher than that of the general population. For we’ve already selected out all of those people who die young. They’re also likely to be the more affluent. The millions who live in council houses don’t up and move when they reach 65 for example.
So, out of a population which is already long lived and which is at least relatively affluent people live a long time. This isn’t a great surprise.
In this particular case this is pretty trivial. But the mistake carries over into more serious matters as well. We sometimes hear of “life inequality” or “health inequality”. Things like the average age at death in Glasgow (or a part of it) is 67, while in Eastbourne it’s 80 odd. This may well be true but these numbers do not take account of the way that people move about. Of the way that at least some pensioners, those we already know have lived a long time and are likely to continue to do so, move away from some areas and into others.
But then that’s how government policy gets made these days: without considering all the facts.