Guildford emerges as the gout capital of Britain

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The Independent Online
MIDDLE-AGED Guildford man could be the healthiest in the country, but for his gout, according to a survey.

While men in the Surrey town were the least likely to get ulcers or bronchitis, and three times less likely to have heart disease than men in Merthyr Tydfil, they came top of the league for gout.

Almost 6 per cent of Guildford men aged between 40 and 60 had the painful condition - six times the rate of Falkirk in Scotland. Only Merthyr Tydfil came close with 4.8 per cent of its middle-aged men getting the problem that is traditionally associated with rich living.

But gout is about the only health statistic that Guildford and Merthyr Tydfil had in common, according to a report in The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians. While Guildford came out as one of the healthiest towns in Britain, the South Wales valleys town was at or near the bottom in most of the dozen conditions the researchers looked at.

Doctors who have been tracking the health of samples of men aged over 40 in 24 British towns for almost 20 years found big differences from place to place. In Merthyr Tydfil almost 40 per cent of men aged between 40 and 59 were receiving regular medicationcompared to 22 per cent in Lowestoft and Southport.

The men from South Wales were also three times more likely to have heart disease than men in Ipswich and more than four times more likely to have bronchitis than their counterparts in Guildford. Arthritis was three times the rate in Bedford, while the number of gall bladder disease sufferers was four times the tally in Ayr.

"Merthyr Tydfil does seem to come off worst. It has a tremendous amount of deprivation, and although employment patterns have changed over the years there is a lot of unemployment and there are a lot of people who are carrying morbidity from mining and industry,'' said Dr Mary Walker, senior lecturer in epidemiology at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, who is a co-author of the report.

She said that the differences revealed by the study of some 300 men in each town, showed why different parts of the country needed different resources.