Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

A more serious North-South Divide

money_war_pound_pc_1600_wht_4731I’ve posted before on the North-South Divide but this is more serious.

First the economy. Professor of human geography Danny Dorling, at the University of Sheffield, says the government has paid far too much attention to the eurozone crisis and the banking sector in London. In the meantime the difference in economic growth between the North and South has become a chasm and the split is growing at its fastest rate since WWII.

While there has been economic recovery in the South there is little evidence of that in the North. Since the recession in 2008 the London economy has grown 12% compared to less than 3% in the East Midlands and less than 4% in Yorkshire. In Greater London 7% of shops are empty compared to twice that proportion in Yorkshire. Public sector job cuts have been more severe in the North of England. Many years ago public sector jobs were moved to  the Northern regions as part of an economic strategy to boost employment.

And when it comes to qualifications 30% of adults in London have degrees compared to half that in Liverpool and Newcastle-on-Tyne. At the other end of the age range pensioners also fare less well withmedian household wealth in the North-East of £226,000 compared to £317,000 nationally and £433,000 in the South-East.

You would expect the labour party to be making a fuss about this but Ed Miliband has ordered his party keep quiet so as not to alienate voters in the South which would undermine his “one nation” message. So political PR trumps economical reality!

stick_figure_deceased_1600_wht_7906Secondly health. People living in Manchester, Blackpool and other parts of the North-West are at much greater risk of dying than people in the South-East. The Longer Lives website from Public Health England shows that highest risk of premature death is linked with deprived areas.

Comparing 150 councils Manchester has the highest mortality rate and Bracknell, in Berkshire, the lowest. Manchester also has the highest early death rate with the highest rates for cancer, heart disease and stroke. Wokingham has less than half that rate.

There are estimated to be over 100,00 avoidable early deaths in England each year with the four leading killers: cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung & liver disease, accounting for 75% of them.

70% of early deaths are linked to deprivation and 57% to smoking.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said this “shocking variation” can’t continue unchecked. “I want areas to use the data to identify local public health challenges like smoking, drinking and obesity, and to take action to help achieve our ambition for saving 300,000 lives a year by 2020”

If  you go on to the Longer Livers website you can type in your postcode and see how your area compares nationally. You can also get advice on diet, smoking and drinking.

Public Health has now been transferred from the NHS to local government and the data from the website allows councils to compare themselves with each other and learn from their health promotion schemes although the Local Government Association is worried about creating a league table.

And finally on the question of ill-health it turns out that southerners are wimps when it comes to taking time off work! 80% of employees in the North-West turned up for work every day in the last three month compared to only 65% in London.

Adeco, the recruitment agency which carried out the survey, excused Londoners by saying that people in the North didn’t live on top of each other as they did in London where people came into contact with more people and more disease on the Tube.

Overall 30% of workers were off sick for 1 day in the three months surveyed. There were marked differences by age group with 60% of 16-24 year olds taking at least one sick day but fewer than 20% of over-55s. This is probably explained by life-style differences. Other research shows that young, single males take more time off work than older married workers.


Prohibition signs don’t always work

In fact they can have the opposite effect.

Research among smokers in New England showed that when smokers saw “non-smoking” signs they thought about wanting to smoke as the idea was put into their heads – even though they may not have consciously noticed the sign.

This is not news for anybody who has been told “don’t think of a purple elephant” who then of course has that image in their head.

It seems the brain has to process what it is you are not supposed to be doing and doesn’t seem very efficient about handling negative statements. (So parents don’t tell your kids what they shouldn’t be doing but what they should, and managers give your staff objectives which are positive not negative).

A researcher from Oxford University makes the point that many Public Health campaigns are telling people what they shouldn’t be doing and this may have the opposite effect.

Source: BPS Annual Conference.