Austerity could be to blame for a sudden decline in life expectancy among parts of the Wakefield population, the city’s director of public health has suggested.
Nationwide figures revealed earlier this year showed that the average life span has fallen in several parts of the UK after decades of growth.
Some of the biggest drops have taken place in post-industrial areas where poverty is high, but in Wakefield overall life expectancy has remained steady.
Numbers published by The Times in January showed that between the start of 2011 and the end of 2016, the average life span in the district rose from 82 years and seven months by a few weeks.
However, there is concern that while life expectancy is rising healthily among the more prosperous parts of Wakefield, people are dying younger in other areas.
It is thought that the effects of government cuts, which have deepened as the decade has progressed might be to blame.
Speaking at a health and wellbeing board meeting, Wakefield Council’s director of public health Anna Hartley, said: “We’re really concerned about higher levels of death within our population that we wouldn’t expect to see.
“In Wakefield we are finding that women who are in manual occupations and who live in deprived areas die unexpectedly from heart and cardio-vascular issues. That is a massive issue.
“The other thing is that life expectancy which improved for many years has now started to come down in some areas.
“There’s no obvious explanation for it, other than possibly austerity.
“That could be the only rational explanation.”
Ms Hartley said that targeting smoking rates was an important part of the council’s strategy to make the city healthier.
The local authority says that the number of pregnant women smoking sharply declined last year, with many receiving help from the Wakefield Stop Smoking Service, which has 13 clinics.
And under recent proposals, people lighting up in the grounds of Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospitals could receive a fine.
David Spereall , Local Democracy Reporting Service