'I knew that sales of Superkings are kept afloat by our friends in the North, but was hoping that, these days, the death rate would not differ so much from north to south.'

If you want to scare yourself silly ? although the professional implications for readers are clear ? take a look at the recently published health profile of England. With apologies to Scottish and Welsh readers, it seems as good a chance as any to glance into the yawning hole that is the mortality of the nation.

Former health secretary John Reid was said to be shocked to discover the differences in life expectancy for a child born in Manchester against one born in Surrey. Now we have some nicely coloured maps to spell out more stark truths.

In the context of my friends and family, they are alarming. Smoking deaths are higher in northern England and London. Was I naive to be taken aback at this? I knew that sales of Superkings are kept afloat by our friends in the North, but was hoping that, these days, the death rate would not differ so much from north to south. And is London life a factor, making The Big Smoke a phrase that should be taken literally?

The Lincolnshire town of Boston was found to be the fattest town in Britain, though Bradford was given that dubious honour by Men's Health magazine a few weeks ago. I found that hard to swallow. I have not been overwhelmed by the radiant health of the city's residents, but I didn't encounter many residents who were candidates for Fat Camp either.

My London borough has males with an average life expectancy under 75.5 years. It is a bit better for females, but not much. I await the detailed breakdown that follows. Is it likely to become a feature of those dinner-party conversations around property?

I can hear us now: 'Yes, a house is£20,000 cheaper and the east London line will get there eventually, but council tax is extortionate and life expectancy 10 years below average.' I look forward to the estate agent blurb!