From your health and wealth to the safety of your community, a study has revealed for the first time that life in the UK really is a postcode lottery.
First conceived as nothing more than a way of sorting and delivering post more efficiently, the postcode has become an accurate indicator of a host of qualities that impact everyday life.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the allocation of the codes to every town in Britain, the Royal Mail has rifled through data from the census, the Office for National Statistics and local council information to establish just what your postcode says about you.
Their findings throw up a few clear surprises – despite all that has been reported about the quality of air and hazards on the roads in London, the capital contributes the five most healthy postcodes in the whole of England.
If like those subjected to Ukip’s latest set of provocative campaign posters you are willing to move in order to find better employment opportunities, you may want to head out to the West Country – the lowest unemployment rate in the whole of the UK is found in the BA and TA postcodes of Somerton and Frome.
And while people of a certain generation will tell you that they used to be able to leave their front doors unlocked and have no trouble, that still seems to be the case for those in TD12, rural Northumberland, which sees the fewest reported incidents of crime per 1,000 population.
Steve Rooney, head of the Royal Mail’s Address Management Unit, said: “Royal Mail’s study provides a fascinating insight into the characteristics of communities the length and breadth of the UK through the lens of the postcode.
“The invention of the postcode revolutionised the way post is sorted and delivered. As it has evolved, the postcodes have also revolutionised the way companies do business. The postcode is now commonly used by people in their everyday activities, whether ordering an item online or planning a route on a Satnav system.”
There are currently around 1.8 million postcodes across the UK, with each covering an average of 17 residential addresses.
On a correctly-addressed item of post, automatic optical recognition robots read the postcode and convert it into a series of dots which are then read by sorting machines. Royal Mail said the system was 20 times faster than manual sorting.
Yet the postcode has become so much more than that. It tells you, for example, how many cars someone is likely to have, whether or not they are more likely to be married and even how much personal debt they are in.
The youngest postcode in the UK is B4 in Birmingham, where the average age is extraordinarily just 23 years old. The oldest, meanwhile, is IP15 in Suffolk at just over 55.
The greatest proportion of married couples exists in BH18, East Dorset, at almost 65 per cent, followed closely by Worcester (WR7) and the Isles of Scilly (TR22).
Postcode even gives a good indication of the general fertility rate, it seems – in Barking (RM5) it is almost double that of the cathedral city of Canterbury (CT1).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, postcodes in London came up highest for cost-of-living indicators, with EC4A and EC1A top for outstanding mortgages and unsecured personal loans respectively.
The Isles of Scilly (TR24) has the fewest cars, at just one for every 10 households. At the other end of the scale, if you live in WR7, Worcester, expect every home to have two each.
As well as carrying out its extensive study of postcode demographics, the Royal Mail will be marking the anniversary by issuing a special postmark which will be applied to all letters this week. Don’t all rush to the Post Office at once – think of the queues.