Map shows the most 'unhealthy' parts of Wales

By Mark Smith

The most "unhealthy" parts of Wales have been revealed on a new interactive map.

The Geographic Data Science Lab, based at the University of Liverpool, has created a new data set which attempts to measure the health of a city, town or community. A variety of different criteria is used to determine what makes an area one of the best or worst performers, including:

  • Positive factors such as access to healthcare, GPs, hospitals, dentists, pharmacies, air quality and leisure;

  • Negative factors such as access to fast food outlets, pubs, off licences, tobacconists and gambling outlets.

Read more: For more health-related content please go here

The researchers said: "[The data] allows policy makers to understand which areas have poor environments for health and helps to move away from treating features of the environment in isolation to provide a comprehensive measure of neighbourhood quality."

Here, we take a closer look at the map and assess how healthy your community is when compared to others across Wales.

Access to leisure facilities

What the map is measuring: The distance to the nearest leisure facility (calculated using data from 2017). The whiter the area of the map, the closer its population is to a leisure facility. The darker the green, the poorer the access to a leisure facility.

What the map shows: As you would expect, the major cities have far better access to leisure facilities than more rural parts of Wales. Some of the worst access appears to be in parts of the south Wales valleys (with the exception of Merthyr Tydfil, it seems), and more rural parts of Powys and north Wales.

Cardiff

(CDRC)

Swansea

(CDRC)

Merthyr Tydfil

(CDRC)

Newport

(CDRC)

Llanelli

(CDRC)

Rhyl

(CDRC)

Access to fast food

What the map is measuring: The distance to the nearest fast food outlet (calculated using data from 2017). The darker the blue on the map, the closer a community's population is to an outlet. The whiter the area, the further away it is to an outlet.

What the map shows: Student areas of Cardiff, including Cathays, Canton, Roath and the city centre, appear to have the highest concentration of fast food restaurants in Wales. The access to such eateries becomes more scarce as you head towards the outskirts of the city. In truth it's a similar picture across most major towns and cities.

Cardiff

(CDRC)

Swansea

(CDRC)

Merthyr Tydfil

(CDRC)

Newport

(CDRC)

Llanelli

(CDRC)

Rhyl

(CDRC)

Air quality

What the map is measuring: The more orange the area on the map, the poorer the air quality.

What the map shows: Interestingly, Cardiff and Newport appear to have far poorer air quality than the likes of Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil, and many other parts of England including Bristol. The air quality in north Wales is also far better than the south according to the map. You can read our study into the people living with Newport's particularly bad air pollution here.

Cardiff

(CDRC)

Swansea

(CDRC)

Merthyr Tydfil

(CDRC)

Newport

(CDRC)

Llanelli

(CDRC)

Rhyl

(CDRC)

Access to health services

What the map is measuring: This map looks at access to GP services, hospitals, dentists and pharmacies all in one. There are also separate maps for these individual elements. The whiter the area, the better the access. The darker the green in the area, the poorer the access.

What the map shows: Wales, much like the rest of the UK, has a serious problem with rural access to healthcare. People living in smaller towns and villages like Tonna in Neath Port Talbot, Newtown in Powys or Holyhead on Anglesey are more likely to have trouble accessing NHS services than those in urban areas. However, the fact that health facilities are closer in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport doesn't necessarily mean it will lead to a shorter wait for treatment.

Cardiff

(CDRC)

Swansea

(CDRC)

Merthyr Tydfil

(CDRC)

Newport

(CDRC)

Llanelli

(CDRC)

Rhyl

(CDRC)

Overall

What the map is measuring: All the factors combined, which the report defines as 'Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards'. Anything coloured dark blue is in the best-performing percentile, those in yellow are in the middle, while those in the lighter and darker oranges are in the worst-performing percentiles.

What the map shows: As well as having the most concentrated population, the centre of Cardiff appears to be the most unhealthy part of Wales, with swathes of Splott, Canton and Cathays in the lowest percentiles. However, neighbouring Penarth and Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan appear to be much healthier areas when looking at the overall picture. Perhaps unexpectedly, Merthyr Tydfil and neighbouring Aberdare are also covered in blue areas, signally that they are healthier regions than the epicentre of Welsh capital. Swansea on the whole appears to be a healthier city than both Cardiff and Newport, while there are several very rural patches of Wales which are heavily orange, which reflects poor access to health services and - in some cases - higher levels of deprivation.

Cardiff

(CDRC)

Swansea

(CDRC)

Merthyr Tydfil

(CDRC)

Newport

Llanelli

(CDRC)

Rhyl

(CDRC)

What is the overall UK picture?

Researchers concluded that Soho in London is the unhealthiest neighbourhood in which to live in the UK.

Not only did it have the greatest access to fast food outlets, pubs and off licenses, it also had high levels of air pollution and low levels of parks and green spaces.

By contrast, the healthiest place to live was Great Torrington in north Devon. The small market town has low levels of pollution, good access to parks and green space, few retail outlets that may encourage poor health-related behaviours, and good access to health services.

All of the other top 10 healthy places to live where located in Scotland.

Liverpool senior lecturer in health geography, Dr Mark Green, who undertook the study, said: "The statistics reveal important insights about the concentration of certain amenities that may be damaging or promote health.

"For example, on average, individuals in Great Britain are just as close to a pub or bar as they are to their nearest GP (1.1 km). We also found that 42% of people are within 1km (or a few minutes' drive time) of their nearest gambling outlet.

"These statistics reveal troubling issues with the neighbourhoods we live in and how they may be damaging to our health."

To see the maps, gathered by the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC), please go here.

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