We’re living much longer – but it’s still a divided city

A view of Sheffield City Centre taken from Park Hill Flats
A view of Sheffield City Centre taken from Park Hill Flats

LIFE is getting better for many Sheffielders who can now expect to live to around 80 – but the future remains far less rosy for residents of the deprived parts of the city.

Despite improvements in public health, life expectancy between the most and least affluent districts can be as high as 13 years, according to a new report on the state of Sheffield.

It paints a picture of a growing city that has made big strides economically, socially, educationally and environmentally in recent years, and where the vast majority of residents are happy to call home, but which is feeling the impact of the recession and continues to be dogged by inequality.

Health remains one of the main indicators of a divided city.

While residents can expect on average to live longer than ever, the outlook is much less positive for those in the most deprived neighbourhoods, says the report compiled by public sector organisations.

Dr Jeremy Wight, Director of Public Health, NHS Sheffield, says: “We have made good progress in preventing early deaths from heart disease and stroke in the city, mortality rates have continued to fall and life expectancy continued to increase in recent years.”

But he adds: “There is still an enormous amount of preventable ill-health in Sheffield that we must strive to reduce; obesity, alcohol and drug abuse and smoking are all contributing factors to the health inequalities that must be addressed.”

The report reaffirms the long-standing gap in prospects on many levels between suburbs such as in Dore, Totley, Ecclesall and other parts of the relatively affluent south west and those in parts of the north and north east of the city such as Brightside, Shiregreen and Parson Cross.

When it comes to the economy, Sheffield was growing quickly before the recession and average incomes were increasing but employment growth has relied on the public sector and this is being halted by cutbacks. Sheffield still has a large manufacturing sector, among the highest in England, but jobs are declining. The number of Sheffield people claiming benefits has doubled between 2008 and 2010.

Meanwhile there is still a relatively low number of business start-ups in the private sector and only average business survival rates, with more needing to be done to tackle the “low pay culture”. The average gross weekly wage in 2009 was £458.

Yet the benefits of living in the city are underlined:

Almost 80% of Sheffielders are satisfied with the areas in which they live;

Residents have an overwhelmingly positive view of the environment in “one of the greenest cities in England” (although only 6% of rivers, streams and canals are rated as “good” by the Government’s Environment Agency);

Residents feel safer. Overall crime fell by a third over the past five years;

Education – school results are improving faster than nationally, although they still lag behind the national average. Aspirations vary across the city, largely driven by poverty;

Improving public health may mean more people living longer but it is also resulting in a larger, older population. Numbers of over-80s are expected to increase by more than half between 2008 and 2031, which will result in more cases of age-related illnesses.

In general the city’s population is predicted to grow by 50,000 to 600,900 over the next ten years as a result of higher life expectancy, increasing birth rates and high levels of people moving into Sheffield.