The key to a longer and healthier life has been found in one of the greenest corners of the West Country. North Dorset, a largely rural landscape dotted with market towns, is home to the oldest men in Britain. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that men in north Dorset live, typically, to 79.3 years, or 79 and four months, four years more than the national average.

Elderly residents of north Dorset attribute their longevity to the charms of the countryside, such as the Melbury Downs, Stour Valley and Blackmore Vale.

Gordon Hine, 82, a north Dorset district councillor, said: "We live in open countryside with clean air and green fields which is beneficial for people being able to go for walks." Mr Hine, a busker and secretary of the local interest group Dorset Men, said: "If you lead an active life you will lead a long life." New homes in market towns such as Blandford, Shaftesbury and Gillingham are also popular with city-dwellers seeking more relaxed lives.

In west Somerset, women live to 83.4, the UK's highest average and three years over the national average. "We have clean air, a relaxed life and the third-biggest population of retired people in the country," a spokeswoman for West Somerset District Council said.

Glasgow has the lowest life expectancy for men at 68.7 and women at 76.2. The only London borough in the top 10 is Kensington and Chelsea - one of London's most affluent postcodes - where women live, on average, to 83.

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