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A peaceful long life                                                                     August 2009


A peaceful long life.

Can peace and beauty help you live longer?

peaceful lifeRed wine, chocolate, having children later in life, being teetotal – there are many ideas bandied about to explain why some people live longer than others.

One idea though is making a lot of sense to people – and it is not about fancy food or special vitamins; it is living with a peaceful slower paced lifestyle in pleasant surroundings.

This sounds like real common sense to me, and people in East Dorset are proving the point. New statistics from the Office of National Statistics show that people living in East Dorset have the longest life expectancy in England and Wales. Over 80% of people living in this southern English region will live to at least 75. This compares with say Manchester, where nearly half of men are not expected to reach their 75th birthday.

The south west of England are statistically the longest living people in England and Wales, but according to the NHS men in East Dorset can expect to live four and a half years longer than men in Plymouth, also in the south west. Women in East Dorset have a life expectancy of 85 years compared with say women in Bristol, also in the south west, where life expectancy is just over 81 years.

So why is East Dorset so special and producing so many octogenarians and more? One idea is the peace and beauty of the region. It is Hardy Country, a region of rolling hills and picturesque villages. While it has large towns such as Bournemouth and Poole, there is also a large percentage of open countryside and farmland. Well within reach of all residents are two large areas of outstanding natural beauty and the beautiful coastline is easily accessible for all.

The peace is added to by a low crime rate – East Dorset has the country’s lowest level of violent crime. It has just 43 crimes per 1,000 population compared with 64 for Dorset and a national rate of 113 per 1,000.

One opponent of the idea of tranquillity assisting longevity points out that the region is also affluent, including the Sandbanks region with some of the highest property prices in the country, and affording the best food and top medical care could make a difference. But not everyone in the area is wealthy, there is unemployment, a good number of factories with average paid workers and a number of traditional agricultural jobs which have never been high payers.

However, the region is known for its traditional old market towns, many of which have historic buildings, independent shops, markets and festivals, and perhaps a sense of belonging adds to the security of life in this region and contributes towards lack of stress and longevity.

Footpaths and bridleways abound across the region, offering easy access to beautiful and peaceful vistas - 97 year old Rev Cannon Dr Leslie Vincent, who lives at Rowlands Hill in Wimborne Minster, says he loves to go out every afternoon and walk around the river.

Writer and actor Julian Fellowes confirms the theory that nice surroundings can make a difference; he says the secret to why people live longer in the region is partly due to the beauty of the landscape and also to the slower pace of lifestyle.

There is no confirmed research that explains the differences in life expectations across England and Wales, and maybe the reason people live longer in East Dorset than anywhere else has yet to be uncovered. But if the secret is to live a slower paced lifestyle in pleasant surroundings, then perhaps that is something we can all work towards without actually moving to East Dorset.


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