Blog > The ‘blue zone’ coastal towns where people live longest

The ‘blue zone’ coastal towns where people live longest

By Clare Yates • 21st June 2024 • 4 min read

Is your town home to more centenarians than anywhere else?

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals the names of four coastal towns that are home to more centenarians than anywhere else in the UK. 

Known as ‘blue zones’, these seaside resorts are hotspots for residents living to 100 and beyond. In today’s blog, we explore the four seaside locations where residents are enjoying impressive longevity.

What are “blue zones”?

Blue zones in the UK refer to specific geographic areas where people are reported to live longer and healthier lives compared to the national average. These regions are characterised by a higher proportion of centenarians and a lower presence of age-related diseases.

In the UK, certain locations have been identified in various reports and studies as having higher-than-average concentrations of centenarians and a reputation for longevity. Most prominently perhaps is the “Centenarians living in England and Wales in 2021” Census report from the ONS in September 2023. 

The locations in the ONS report may not fit the exact criteria of the original global blue zones located in regions like Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan) and Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), but they do share similarities in terms of lifestyle and community factors.

The UK’s four coastal town “blue zones”

The United Kingdom, renowned for its rich history and picturesque landscapes, is home to several coastal regions in England and Wales where people tend to live significantly longer than the national average, which is around 80 years old. 

These four areas, now dubbed as “blue zones,” boast a higher proportion of centenarians than anywhere else in the country. 

Official figures from the ONS show the hotspot ranking for people living the longest lives starts with East Devon. With the natural beauty of its rolling hills, coastal paths, and the Jurassic Coast, this location offers a peaceful and stress-relieving environment for its residents. It must work, as this district officially has the highest proportion of centenarians with 64 per 100,000. 

This is followed by Waverley in Surrey with 53 per 100,000. Known for its affluence, this typically correlates with better access to healthcare, healthier diets, and higher standards of living.

Next on the list is Arun – encompassing the seaside towns of Bognor Regis and Littlehampton – in West Sussex with 59 centenarians per 100,000. 

The New Forest in Hampshire, with its unique blend of natural beauty, historical charm and an idyllic national park is another area with a leading number of centenarians. This location came fourth with 57 per 100,000. 

The findings by the ONS shine a spotlight on these four locations as idealistic locations where people are living longer, healthier lives. 

Perhaps it’s the cleaner sea air, the active lifestyles, strong community networks, access to quality healthcare and education – or a combination of the above. Whatever the answer, living in these coastal locations contributes somehow to their residents’ longevity.

The regions with the lowest number of centenarians

The ONS figures also reveal the other end of the scale, where seven local authorities have fewer than 10 centenarians per 100,000 people.

Strikingly, five of them can be found in London boroughs. These are Newham, where there are just five centenarians per 100,000 people, and Tower Hamlets where they are six per 100,000. 

These locations are followed by Hackney where there are eight per 100,000 residents, and Islington and Lambeth which both have nine in every 100,000.

The remaining two locations are Knowsley in Merseyside in the north-west of England and the town of Crawley, which is home to Gatwick airport in West Sussex. Both of these have just nine centenarians per 100,000 population.

Number of UK centenarians reaches record high

As part of its report on the UK’s centenarians, the ONS also reveals that over the last century the number of people living to 100 across England and Wales is 127 times higher than it used to be. The figure reached a record high of 13,924 in 2021. 

Despite this increase, the number of centenarians in the country still only represent 0.02% of the total population. 

Incredibly, the ONS also found that a quarter of centenarians reported having good or very good health and almost a third reported having no disabilities.

The living arrangements of UK centenarians

The ONS data also provides fascinating insights into the living arrangements of centenarians:

A significant portion of centenarians, about two-fifths (39.1%), live in communal establishments. Of these, an overwhelming 96.8%, reside in care homes. 

Incredibly, another two-fifths (41.6%) of centenarians live alone in private households. This indicates a high level of independence and self-sufficiency among many of the elderly, even at such an advanced age. 

The remaining fifth (19.3%) of centenarians live with other people in a household, typically close relatives, reflecting strong family bonds and support networks. 

Many people hope to one day live with their family in old age for support when they are starting to struggle on their own at home. So, who are the UK’s centenarians living with?

  • Unsurprisingly, of those living in multi-person households, almost two thirds (65.8%) live with their child or stepchild. This popular and traditional arrangement typically provides both emotional support and practical assistance with daily activities.
  • A further 17.6% of centenarians in multi-person households live with their spouse. This emphasises the importance of mutual support that couples can offer each other as they age.
  • Another 15% of centenarians in these households live with their grandchildren. A notable 32.2% live with other relatives, which could include siblings, cousins, or extended family members. The figures highlight the importance of broader family networks in later life.
  • Finally, 10.7% of centenarians live with someone who is not related to them, indicating the role of caregivers, friends, or housemates in providing support.

Note: The above percentages do not sum to 100%, as respondents could live with more than one relative.

Sources:

Demographic data from 2021 Census: Centenarians living in England and Wales in 2021. Office for National Statistics. Accessed 18 June 2024.

Global blue zones: How to live longer: Centenarians in the Blue Zone. The Express. Accessed 18 June 2024.

About Clare Yates. With over a decade’s experience writing about later life financial planning, Clare offers a wealth of knowledge about equity release, pension annuities, wills, LPAs and more. When she isn’t writing, Clare likes to spend her time baking and going on walks with her husband, two children and their rescue dog. Follow Clare on LinkedIn

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