Life expectancy in Stockton: 'No borough has a higher gap between the less well off and better off'

A rise in the number of people suffering depression is among the figures in Stockton Council's latest public health report
-Credit: (Image: Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

An alarming gap in life expectancy continues to plague a Teesside borough along with more people described as obese or suffering depression.

There is a life expectancy gap of almost 20 years in the Stockton area. Stockton town centre has the lowest life expectancy at 67 for men, 72 for women while Ingleby Barwick East has the highest with 84 for men, 90 for women.

Stockton Council's latest annual public health report shows some improvements, with 57% of children and young people physically active - above the national average - and smoking prevalence reduced from 15% to 13%. However the number of adults classified as overweight or obese has risen to 70% and more people were recorded with depression.

Councillor Steve Nelson, cabinet member for health, leisure and culture, told the council's last cabinet meeting: "The impact of covid is still with us, including long-term physical health issues, increases in mental health concerns and negative impact of isolation.

"The report references the residents' survey. If that survey's representative, approximately 12,000 residents of the borough feel lonely all the time. That's a huge figure.

"Compared to 2019 there have been some successes. Fewer people smoke, more mothers are breast feeding and fewer young people are being admitted to hospital as a result of self-harm. On the flip side, more adults are overweight or obese and more people experience depression.

"These measures will help inform the priorities of the health strategy being developed. The theme of the report is addressing inequalities and no borough in the country has a higher gap between the less well off and better off communities, and that socio-economic discrepancy is reflected is key health measures including life expectancy."

Councillor Steve Nelson and director of public health Sarah Bowman-Abouna from Stockton Council
Councillor Steve Nelson and director of public health Sarah Bowman-Abouna from Stockton Council -Credit:Stockton Council/Teesside Live

In the report's case studies, a single man in his 30s said he often did not eat for a few days to make sure he had enough to feed his children, a woman received support including emergency food parcels and described a community pantry and lunch club as a "godsend", while a teenager secured an apprenticeship after he was helped to stop using drugs and stabilise his mental health.

Public health director Sarah Bowman-Abouna said: "It's obvious that there's a huge amount of activity going on to address inequality across the borough. And yet the inequality does persist, and it's really important that we use all the available evidence and build on the Fairer Stockton approach to continue to progress our activity around that.

"We are making some progress, there is some good news in terms of improving outcomes. We have had a decrease in smoking levels across the population and our physical activity levels in children and young people are looking better.

"But we also know that overall data masks inequality across communities and groups within our borough. And therein lies the challenge really.

"The evidence says that to address inequality effectively, we need to focus on those who are in greatest need, but we can't only focus on those in greatest need. We need to take a bit of a sliding scale approach, tailoring our support and working with communities. Otherwise we store up future need.

"We need to take action across the whole community. We've got such a lot of good activity going on at the minute and there's the opportunity for us to scale it up."