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Re-engaging with the physical environment: a health-related environmental classification of the UK

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This paper presents a health-related area-level multiple environmental classification of the UK and examines ecological associations with health. This classification, akin to a geodemographic profile of the environment, classifies small areas across the UK into seven environment types ranging from ‘Industrial’ to ‘Sunny, clean and green’. The data for the classification were gathered from a range of agencies, rendered to Census Area Statistic Wards (n = 10 654) and processed through a two-stage clustering technique to create a Multiple Environmental Deprivation Classification, or MEDClass. In order to explore the utility of MEDClass, this paper presents an empirical investigation into the extent to which the type of physical environment one lives in can influence self-reported health and mortality rates. The findings suggest that while physical environment ‘type’ makes a modest contribution towards our understanding of health inequalities, socio-economic deprivation remains the most important challenge for those seeking to address these inequalities. In conclusion we suggest that human geographers should embrace a broader conceptualisation of the environment and in particular, re-engage with traditional aspects of the physical environment.
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Keywords: UK; environmental deprivation; environmental profile; geodemographics; health inequalities; physical environment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, Email: [email protected] 2: Section of Public Health and Health Policy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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