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South West had the oldest population in the UK in 2012

The 2013 ONS regional characteristics analysis for the South West

The latest ONS Region and Country Profiles analysis takes a look at the regional characteristics of the nine regions within England and countries of the UK, exploring aspects such as population, age, employment, crime and house prices. The profile of the South West shows it to be the largest region in the UK and the most rural English region. The South West contributed 8% to the UK’s economic output. The region’s population was the oldest with a median age of 42.9 years, and the incidence of crimes in the region was among the lowest in England.

The South West is the largest English region

In terms of area the South West is the largest English region at 23,800 square kilometres (sq km), occupying 18% of the total area of England. It is also bigger in area than both Wales and Northern Ireland.

The South West had a population of 5.3 million at mid-2012, 8% of the UK total population. There had been an increase of 0.7% since mid-2011, the same as for the UK over the same period. Almost a third (31.6%) of the region’s population lived in rural areas in 2011, the highest proportion of all the English regions, compared with 17.6% for England.

The South West’s population density in mid-2012 was 224 people per sq km, compared with the UK and England population densities of 263 and 411 respectively. The figure is the lowest among English regions, but above that of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The region had the lowest household crime rate in 2012/13

Crime rates for the South West were among the lowest in England in 2012/13. There were 176 household offences per 1,000 households reported to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), the lowest in England, which had 217 incidents per 1,000 households. There were 54 police-recorded crimes per 1,000 population, compared with 64 per 1,000 population across England in 2012/13.

The South West’s age profile is older than that of the UK as a whole. With a median age of 42.9 years in mid-2012 the South West has the highest median age among all English regions and UK countries, which compares with the UK median of 39.7 years. People aged 65 and over made up the largest share of the population in the UK at 20.3%. This compares with the average for the UK of 17.0%. Life expectancy at birth in 2009 to 2011 was 79.8 years for males and 83.7 years for females. This was among the highest of the English regions, compared with 78.9 and 82.9 years respectively for England, and similar to the South East and East of England.

The South West had one of the lowest unemployment rates in mid-2013

In 2011, the South West was responsible for almost 8% of the UK’s economic output (gross value added or GVA). The unemployment rate in the South West was the joint lowest in the UK, with the South East, at 6.0% in Q2 2013 compared with 7.8% for the UK.

In April 2012, median gross weekly earnings for full-time adult employees were £477, lower than the UK median of £506. The percentage of the region’s population aged 16 to 64 that had no qualifications in 2012 was 7.0%, the second lowest proportion in the UK, after the South East, and compared with 9.9% for the UK.

Gross disposable household income (GDHI) of South West residents was £16,000 per head in 2011, the same as the UK average. The average house price in the South West in June 2013 was £229,000, slightly below the UK average of £242,000.

Where can I find out more about ONS regional statistics?

These statistics were analysed by the Sub-national Reporting team at the ONS using data from a range of official statistics. If you’d like to find out more about the latest regional statistics, please see our Notes on Sources, latest tables (260.5 Kb Excel sheet) and interactive mapping and charting tool or visit our Directory of Tables page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d like to hear them! Please email us at

Categories: People and Places, Communities, Neighbourhoods and Communities, Crime and Justice, Economy, Labour Market, Housing and Households, Housing Market, Population
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