HEALTH DIVISION IS LAID BARE; It Is a Difficult but Unavoidable Truth - How Healthy, Wealthy, Well-Educated and Protected from Crime You Are Depends on Where You Live. Today CIARAN JONES Launches a Five-Day Series on the Divide between Different Areas of Cardiff by Examining the Health of Residents

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Byline: CIARAN JONES

BYROAD, it is just six miles fromthe detached streets of Radyr to the Loudon Square tower blocks in the middle of Cardiff.

Yet health statistics show the invisible gap between the residents of the city's leafy outskirts and inner city Butetownis far greater:someone living in on the outskirts of the city is likely to live about 11' years longer than someone in the former docklands.

This divide in the health of the city's residents is not simply in life expectancy. Startling figures collated by city health officials show: people in parts of Riverside and Butetown are twice as likely as their counterparts in Llanishen or Radyr to have a limiting long-term illness; places in Caerau and Cathays have up to four times as many cancer sufferers than an area of Trowbridge; and one in eight babies born in part of Fairwater weighs less than 2.5kg, compared to fewer than one in 100 babies born to parents in areas of the Whitchurch and Tongwynlais ward.

The figures, in the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) and covered in the city's latest Headline Needs Assessment, show deep divisions in the capital's health. Dr Kay Saunders, who launched ButetownHealthcareCentrein1998, said she sees huge inequalities in her own practice, with some of Cardiff's wealthiest residents living in Cardiff Bay - just moments away fromsome of the most deprived in all ofWales.

"Within my practice we have a huge contrast, with people living in poorer areas and people in much more affluent areas, so within the practice people are coping with vastly different problems," she said.

The 53-year-old said the disparities arose because of differences in income and life choices. She said people in deprived areas were more likely to smoke, eat a poor diet and suffer from stress.

Dr Saunders told the Echo: "More people smoke, people are very stressed, and that has an effect because your body wears out quicker and you have a whole lot more problems.

A struggle with daily life and frustrations takes its toll on health."

Dr Sharon Hopkins, director of public health for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said "age, sex and genetic make-up of individuals, as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise" contributed to the divide.

"More deprived areas have higher levels of diseases related to smoking and alcohol misuse, accidental injuries, teenage pregnancy and mental health conditions," she said.

"They also have higher levels of chronic diseases such as chronic heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and some cancers, and people are more likely to be living with a long-term illness or disability."

Dr Saunders said deaths of younger people from drug overdoses may have skewed life expectancy statistics, calculated based on average age at death. She said her caseload consisted of many people presenting with high blood pressure, cardiac problems and high cholesterol, as well as mental issues associated with deprivation.

"What you call depression is difficult but general stress levels and distress is quite high, and certainly amongst the homeless people," she said. "There are some people with personality disorders which don't haveadiagnosis as suchbut theyhave huge problems in coping with life."

Dr Saunders, who was recently awarded an MBE for services to healthcareandtohomelesspeople in Cardiff, said some aspects of health inequality came down to attitude.

Unhappypeoplewhodo not have a stable or well-paid job are likely to have a lower pain threshold and suffer more acutely from problems like arthritic joints, she said.

"Somebody with a high-powered jobwhohas got an arthritic knee will probably find their pain threshold is higher, and they may be inclined to seek out help sooner or get a joint replacement sooner," she said.

Dr Hopkins added: "Sadly, the differences in lifeexpectancyseenacross Cardiff are a result of the differences in the level of deprivation, but unfortunately this is not unusual. …