Violence: is there a North-South divide?
It seems rough, tough Northern lads and lasses can still really show those Southern namby-pambies a thing or two when it comes to settling a dispute with a bit of a scrap.
Research published in the dog days between Christmas and New Year but not picked up by the mainstream regional and national press until well into January suggested violence is something of a Northern speciality.
Data for five years, to the end of 2014, was collected from hospital emergency departments, minor injuries units and walk-in centres in England and Wales about reasons for patients’ attendances. In total, there were almost a quarter of a million violence-related cases, of which more than 70 per cent involved males receiving treatment.
The academics from the Violence Research Group at Cardiff University found “substantial variation between Northern and Southern regions, with higher injury rates identified in the North West and North East”. Lower rates of injury were identified in the East and the South East. The overall trend from 2010 was for a drop of 13.8 per cent in attendances, but those two Northern regions stubbornly bucked it.
The researchers found that violence generally peaked from May to July, and said prevention efforts should focus on these months and the regions with the highest injury rates.
Co-author Professor Jonathan Shepherd, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, told The Telegraph website: “Violence rates in Northern regions are higher than in the rest of England and Wales. There could be a number of reasons for this, including the use of violence as a means to establish a strong masculine identity, higher levels of alcohol consumption among young adults compared with other age groups, and North-South inequalities in health and prosperity.”
While I’m wary about reinforcing regional stereotypes, I think this piece of number-crunching highlights one North-South divide that as a nation we should all be concerned about. I must add that, despite inheriting a certain Northern feistiness from my mother, my lifetime default has been to opt for flight rather than fight whenever a bit of bovver has threatened.
There are questions to be asked about how we educate children to deal with disputes. I wonder if a combination of traditional working-class values, relative poverty and ill health, unemployment and welfare dependency, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, the abuse of drink and drugs, and the knife-and-gun gang culture explains all of it.
I just don’t know. But that is why as a society we fund this type of research. It teases out what we do not necessarily realise intuitively.
I fear I may be written off as just another middle-class straight white liberal male journalist down in London (because that’s what I am) basically hand-wringing and saying: “Why can’t everybody be more like me?”
Far from it. Please don’t be like me. I just believe that people in the North of my country, not least the young, deserve a greater chance of not ending up on the operating tables of oral and maxillofacial surgeons at the end of a Friday night out with their friends.
Main image of Manchester by Chris Payne
Richard Dixon is a multimedia subeditor at Telegraph Spark, the commercial arm of Telegraph Media Group. He was a medical journalist in the early 1980s after doing a PhD with a hint of the biomedical.
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