Welcome to Hull, one of the unhealthiest parts of Britain.

The city's health problems are no secret but new stats released this week show just how stark the contrast is between the city and its East Riding neighbours.

In a depressingly predictable conclusion, Hull is one of the unhealthiest cities according to the first official national health index. The figures, collected by the Office for National Statistics and financial services company Lane Clark & Peacock, show Hull is the second worst behind only Blackpool.

Each area of England has been scored on a wide range of factors, including obesity, smoking, alcohol misuse, wellbeing, depression, pollution and green space. The index could now be used to direct government policy on health.

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There has been much talk about a north/south divide but there is an equally worrying split within East Yorkshire itself.

Hull scored a paltry 91 which is eclipsed by the East Riding’s score of 102.1 which puts it as the 33 best in the country out of 149. That means there are 115 places between the two council areas despite the fact they stand side-by-side geographically.

Hull's battle against poor health

Hull’s battle with poor health has been going on for decades and relates to the deprivation in large parts of the city.

The East Riding is a far more affluent and rural area which partly explains its better position in the table.

The statistics for the East Riding are much better than Hull
The statistics for the East Riding are much better than Hull

But appears Hull’s problems cannot simply be addressed by encouraging people to give up alcohol or cigarettes or encouraging healthier diets.

Hull North MP Diana Johnson has long called for wider investment in Hull to tackle the underlying issues around poverty, education and jobs.

She also believes the impact of Covid-19 will only widen the poverty gap and increase the health issues in places like Hull.

She said: “These figures show, yet again, the strong link between health and wealth and the effect that poverty has on how long people live and how long they stay healthy.

"Covid-19 has made this inequality even starker and this will have a further impact. In one of the richest nations on the globe we should not have a health divide like this.

“In recent weeks I have challenged the Health Secretary on whether health inequalities will be one of his priorities for the latest NHS reorganisation he has just announced.

Graphic shows how poor Hull's health index is
Graphic shows how poor Hull's health index is

"The solution to improving the health of people in Hull goes beyond just supporting the NHS but is a broader battle across areas such as social security, education, decent jobs that pay well and good quality housing.

“What people in Hull do not need is patronising lectures from those who’ve never had to face tough choices about feeding their family.”

Rock bottom

The health index drills down further into exactly where each area performs well or badly.

Where Hull truly falls down is in the individual habits of its residents. The city is bottom of the table for ‘behavioural risk factors’ which relates to alcohol, smoking, eating habits and exercise.

Splitting that down further, Hull is rock bottom for smoking. Despite endless local campaigns and dedicated services to stop the dangerous habit, the city continues to have some of the highest numbers of smokers in the country.

Hull is also in the bottom five for unhealthy eating and drug abuse.

The level of physical activity and alcohol misuse also don’t make for pretty reading with the city in the bottom ten for the former and the bottom 20 for the later.

Hull's smoking population is higher than average
Hull's smoking population is higher than average

Obesity is also a major problem with Hull in the bottom ten which means our eating habits are poor. It was revealed last year that nearly 70 per cent of adults in Hull are now overweight or obese.

Rather alarmingly, the city does not fare well for mortality with life expectancy and avoidable deaths (such as accidents) the fourth worst in the country.

High crime and suicide rate

There is even more bad news as Hull is the third worst place in the country for crime.

Suicides are also high in the city although it does not have as a big a problem with self-harm or depression.

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It seems rather contradictory as Hull people are not deemed to be happy despite the fact it does not fare badly for life satisfaction and worthiness while anxiety is not deemed a major issue.

For physical health conditions Hull preforms reasonably well and is in the top half in relation to many conditions.

The only area of real concern is respiratory problems, a major issue during the pandemic, which may in part be down to the high rates of smoking in the city.

Nearly 70 per cent of adults in Hull are now overweight or obese
Nearly 70 per cent of adults in Hull are now overweight or obese

The index also looks at the likes of employment and pay. It will come as no surprise that Hull does not do particularly well in this area, despite some positive signs in recent years with the arrival of Siemens and other investment.

Low pay and poor exam performance

Workers in Hull are some of the lowest paid in the country while unemployment is also one of the highest.

As a forerunner to that, education and training are also one of the worst in the country.

Hull is in the bottom five for young people’s training and early years development while it is in the bottom ten for GCSE achievement.

There is better news in the healthy places section with Hull in the top 30 for being near a GP and a pharmacy.

Hull is also just outside the top ten for housing affordability while transport noise is not a major issue either.

But Hull is in the lower echelons for road safety and traffic volume which many of us will be aware of, being stuck in rush hour traffic most mornings and evenings.

And, despite our poor physical activity levels, we cannot blame a lack of leisure facilities with Hull in the top 50.

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Hull’s travails come into greater focus when compared to the East Riding.

Hull's neighbour is the second best in the country for no household overcrowding and fourth best for infant mortality and cancer screening.

Life the other side of the health divide

Incredibly, despite being so close, while Hull is in the worst ten for obesity, the East Riding is the sixth best in England.

'Life worthwhileness' is also very high and is the fourth best in the country. The East Riding also has it good when it comes to traffic volumes and noise. Once again, being one of England’s best.

The East Riding’s main problems seem to stem from its ageing population. The area is the second worst for cancer while hypertension is a big issue with the area the third worst in the country.

The East Riding is also in the bottom five for cardiovascular problems and in the bottom ten for dementia.

One issue the two areas do share is lack of physical activity with the East Riding in the bottom 50 and it does have a problem with a lack of leisure facilities nearby for many people.

Oddly, for somewhere so rural, there seems to be a lack of public green space with the East Riding in the bottom ten.