Is devolution the key to a happier and healthier Manchester?

MANCHESTER HAS never been one of the UK’s healthiest locations; in fact, the city has had a reputation as one of the unhealthiest places in the UK for over two centuries. Back in the days when England was recruiting for volunteers for the Boer War, at the end of the 19th century, three out of every five Mancunian volunteers were deemed to be unfit to fight. 

Fast-forward to modern-day Manchester and we’re still lagging behind when it comes to health statistic results. In 2006, the city had the lowest life expectancy in the country. Things have begun to improve since then, though. The Office for National Statistics’ General Health in England and Wales 2011 review specifically highlighted Manchester as one of the most improved local authorities over the previous decade. 

Now, devolution has the potential to build on that improvement in order to take health outcomes in Manchester to the next level. The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care (GMHSC) Partnership emphasises the need for enhanced, joined-up support services that tackle issues such as smoking, alcohol dependency, poor diet, and air pollution; all of which are contributing to poor health in the city. 

The idea is that a combined health and social care service, that is moulded around individual and community needs, can provide better, more responsive care. At the same time, work is underway to support improvements to education and earning potential, as well as to exercise and diet across the community. 

This joined-up approach is one that has big potential when it comes to improving health and happiness in Manchester. Wellbeing is a complex issue that is affected by a huge range of factors. It’s not only a question of eating the right foods and hitting the gym three times a week. Everything from annual earnings to marital status can have an effect on health outcomes.

Thankfully, along with the work that GMHSC is doing, there is also a range of other companies out there who can help to improve health and happiness outcomes in this area. For example, the Badoo dating site has Manchester-specific profiles for those looking to make friends or start relationships with people in the local area. Not only do such services have the potential to lead to happiness, they can also impact on health outcomes: research has shown that people who are married are less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, more likely to survive cancer and less likely to develop depression.

The health benefits of marriage have been shown to equate roughly to those of undertaking regular exercise or switching to a healthier diet. That’s quite a significant link between health and happiness.  

While devolution itself is unlikely to affect the marriage rate in Manchester, the holistic approach to health is certainly one that holds value. Health and happiness are so intertwined that the only way to address one properly is to address them both. By focusing on wellbeing as a whole, Manchester has the opportunity to improve health outcomes across the board. 

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