Dr John Smith

Factors such as diet play a big part in our health and wellbeing, says Dr John
Factors such as diet play a big part in our health and wellbeing, says Dr John

The headlines looked disastrous; we were 12th in the healthy life expectancy table for developed nations.

But look closely and the difference is a small one.

The Spanish are top of the league (and not just at football) with 70.9 years of healthy life expected at birth, while we expect 68.6 years.

Good healthcare contributes only 20 per cent to our healthy lifespans; the rest is up to us – diet, exercise, alcohol and cigarette intake and weight.

I am assuming the opposite of being healthy is having a health problem that either affects lifestyle or reduces our ability to do something that we have previously done.

The implications for the rise in retirement age are important. Ill health and retirement will coincide and that is clearly not good.

What is worse is the north-south health divide.

People who live in the north are 20 per cent more likely to die before the age of 75 than those in the south.

And this gap is growing.

If we think in economic terms only, this means all of us will have to work longer but a significant number of us will already be unwell when we retire and will die not many years after retirement.

There is an inherent unfairness in all of this so perhaps retirement should be offered earlier to people who live in the north while the southerners should work a year or two longer.

And for us who live in the Midlands we should be offered something in the middle – now there’s an idea.