A Degree for Life

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Reaching your one hundredth birthday was once an extremely rare privilege. Yet an increasing number of Britons are receiving the Queen’s congratulations, and a recent report in The Lancet Journal revealed that half of babies born this year in the richest nations are destined to be centenarians.

The medical publication’s prediction is an example of many recent statistics concerning the increasing life expectancy of the British population, a subject which has particular relevance to today’s young generation of students.

Government data currently estimate English males to live for 77 years, with women on average reaching 82. The figures are part of a positive trend that has continued since the Second World War, fuelled by social and scientific advancements in the field of health. We eat a more nutritious diet, live less dangerous lives and enjoy the benefits of superior medication and care.

With life expectancy proceeding to rise annually, being a student is of no small significance. Qualifications are precursors of a larger income and a safer lifestyle. National government statistics indicate a professional worker is expected to live six years longer than an unskilled manual worker. Of course averages do not guarantee anything and graduates should be taking nothing for granted, particularly in the present employment market.

However if Southampton University’s alumni do live longer, the six extra years are most likely to be spent in retirement. Unfortunately our era of being a pensioner may not be as long as we would like. Younger students can expect to be working until they are at least seventy. A demographic shift toward a larger ratio of those dependent on tax to those who earn it would invariably necessitate an older retirement age. Despite this, a proficient pension will still be invaluable, especially if energy costs have not stabilised, and fortunate graduates will continue reaping the rewards throughout ‘The Golden Years’.

The geographical position of Southampton is also considerable. Should a student choose to stay in the area after their degree, they would extend their estimated longevity. The South East boasts the highest life expectancy in the UK, with men averaging 79.2 years and women 83 years.

Therefore the University of Southampton is the perfect place to currently be in terms of leading a long and comfortable life. Our qualifications will provide us with the freedom to pursue a career we will enjoy, which is somewhat of a blessing as we could be pursuing it for fifty years.

Yet spare a thought for those afflicted by more sobering statistics. There is phenomenal variation in life expectancy within the UK alone. Men born in Glasgow will on average have lives 14 years shorter than their male counterparts born in Chelsea.  Reasons for this extraordinary gap range from the prevalent gang violence to poorer housing conditions to the harsher Scottish climate. The disparity is certainly indicative of the infamous ‘North-South divide’.

Undoubtedly this issue can and must be addressed; the stark injustice contradicts the name ‘The United Kingdom’. A community being probabilistically condemned to live 14 years shorter than another just 340 miles away is not acceptable. Practically, the attributing factors must be examined singularly and methods of amending each one should be analysed.

Of course national inconsistency in life expectancy is minimal compared to the international variation. At the very bottom of the list is Sierra Leone where a man is statistically unlikely to reach his 39th birthday.

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Mike is the Editor of the Wessex Scene for 2011/2012 after fulfilling the role of Features Editor in 2010/2011. Apart from taking charge of the ever-expanding Scene, Mike enjoys writing for a broad range of the sections, though his heart truly lies in reporting and Features.

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