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This section covers the characteristics of York. This includes the population, the physical and built environment, and the social and community environment that people live in.


People who live in York

Population size

The population of York is currently estimated to be 208,000. At the time of the last census (2011) the population of York was 198,051 with 83,552 households. In the last ten years leading to 2011 the population of York had grown at a faster rate than the region and than England as a whole. By 2032, the population of York is projected to be between 224,000 and 232,000 people.


York has a higher proportion of people aged 18-24 compared with the England average, this is largely because of the two universities in the city. York has a smaller proportion of primary and secondary aged children than England; however this is a fast growing population group in York. Additionally, York has a slightly lower proportion of working age adults than England. The proportion of adults of retirement age, in particular older adults, is very similar to the England average. Between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of people aged 85+ in York rose significantly and at a faster rate than the national average. This trend is expected to continue and the number of older adults is expected to rise rapidly in the coming years.

Life expectancy

Life expectancy at birth for people born in York is similar to or slightly above the national average and this has been true for at least the last ten years. Life expectancy for men is still rising slightly year on year, whereas the data for women has reached a plateau. York is keeping pace with both these trends.

There is a significant difference between the most deprived and the least deprived wards. Between 2010-2014, women in the most deprived wards live for 7.7 fewer years, and men live for 5 fewer years, than their less deprived peers in the city.


In the 2011 census, 94% of residents in York describe themselves as 'White British'; this is substantially larger than the national average. The largest minority ethnic group in York is Chinese; this is partly due to the large number of international students. The majority (91%) of residents in York were born in the UK. Trends over the last two decades indicate that York is becoming more ethnically diverse and this trend is expected to continue.


Built Environment

Health infrastructure

There are 44 NHS community pharmacies in York, more can be read about them in the pharmacy needs assessments. There are 37 GP surgery locations in York, which belong to 11 separate practice groups. There is one hospital run by the York Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust. There are mental health inpatient wards in York, as well as mental health out patient and community support delivered in various locations. There are eight sexual health clinics available across the city, including on the student campuses. There is also a recovery hub for the drug and alcohol recovery service in the centre of York.  


One in three people in York live in rented accommodation; this is higher than the England average. Half of these people rent from a private landlord, and half from a social landlord. Both the rental market and the cost of home ownership in York is more expensive than regional and national averages and has risen consistently over the last few years. This environment makes it difficult for people to save to buy a home, and puts pressure on the housing market as a whole.  

The higher cost of accommodation affects some groups of people in particular. People with low or insecure incomes may find it hard to afford rental housing; this puts them at higher risk of housing insecurity or using loans to afford their rent. Additionally, the majority of young people will no longer be entitled to a 'housing element' to support their housing costs under the new Universal Credit system.

Air quality

High levels of air pollution can be particularly harmful for young children and elderly people, and is associated with higher levels of lung and respiratory conditions as well as affecting some elements of childhood development. Air pollution also contributes to health inequalities because areas of greater deprivation, usually in built up areas, tend to have higher levels of air pollution. Although air quality in York is generally within the guideline limits, York has three air quality zones where the levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter exceed the national air quality objectives. In York, this is largely caused by congestion and heavy traffic. There are strategies in place to reduce the levels of air pollution in each of these areas.

Public transport

Affordable and reliable public transport can reduce health inequalities for people without access to cars. It can enable people to secure employment, maintain social networks, have access to fresh food, and more easily access health care when they need to. York has a well maintained cycle network as well as a bus service that serves the majority of the city. Affordable and reliable public transport is particularly important for older adults, teenagers, people on low and insecure incomes, and people with physical and learning disabilities. In the older people's survey, satisfaction with the bus service in York was high.

Green spaces

Green spaces can support good physical and mental health through providing opportunities to socialise, exercise, reflect and relax. As of July 2017 there were 279 separate green spaces in York. They vary in size and purpose; half were play spaces or fields, a third were spaces dedicated to sport; the remainder are allotments, parks, or cemeteries or religious spaces. Areas towards the centre of the city, as well as the urban west and urban east have substantially fewer open and green spaces in comparison to the more rural areas in the north of the city.


Social Environment


Social connections are an important part of living well. In a resident’s survey, 75% of people felt they belong to their local area. However, 89% reported that they felt it was important to belong to the local area. Taken together this suggests that at least some people in York would value more community belonging. A smaller group, 64%, volunteers through giving unpaid help to a group, club, or organisation. Additionally, 81% of people felt that their local area was a good place for children and young people to grow up. Overall, 92% of people were satisfied with York as place to live.

Community activity York

Opportunities for people to meet and participate in community life are important for individual wellbeing and social cohesion. The Live Well York website covers over 400 community groups that meet in York. The groups include sports groups, social groups, hobby groups, and information and advice services. The Community sport directory details a further 100 community run sports groups in York.


A broad similar measure of poverty is the 'Index of Multiple Deprivation'; this measures the relative disadvantage of an area. Snapshot data from 2015 show that overall York has a low level of deprivation, however, some wards in York have high levels. This tends to be the case in the more densely populated wards towards in the centre of the city. Fuel Poverty

Fuel poverty occurs when the cost of heating a home is above average and the household income would be below the poverty line after paying these heating costs. Single parents, unemployed people, people living in houses of multiple occupancy, in homes with poor insulation, or in homes without national grid connection are more at risk of fuel poverty.

A 2008 report identified that fuel poverty in York was mainly concentrated around Acomb, Fishergate, and Guildhall. Additionally, a 2015 review of York's owned or privately rented homes found that 4% were excessively cold, meaning that the temperature was low enough to be harmful to health.

Excessively cold homes are linked to low infant weight gain, hospital admissions, childhood asthma, low educational attainment, poor mental health in teenagers, low physical and mental wellbeing in adults, preventable cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, and excess winter deaths in older adults. Ensuring people have warm homes represents an important opportunity to improve health and health equality of the residents of York.

Crime and public protection

York has a significantly lower level of both violent crime and victim based crime than the national average; this has been a consistent trend in York for at least the last five years.  Public perception of crime is as important for wellbeing as actual crime levels. For example, a feeling of safety makes people more willing to spend time in their local communities and make connections with others. In York, 77% of people report feeling that York is a safe city and relatively free of crime and violence. Despite this, a proportion of people felt that drug dealing, noisy neighbours, and hate crime were problems in their local area. Hate crime disproportionately affects LGBT people and people with BME backgrounds in York and North Yorkshire.

Healthy high street

The Royal Society of Public Heath considered the 'health' of shop fronts on the high streets of 70 towns and cities in England. Some venues were considered to support health and wellbeing (pubs, greengrocers, libraries, GP surgeries, pharmacies, and sports centers). Other venues were judged to be harmful to health and wellbeing (pay day loan shops, bookmakers, fast food outlets, tanning salons, shops selling tobacco, and head shops which sell new psychoactive substances). In the report, York had the ninth healthiest high street in England. This suggests that York has a large proportion of shop fronts which are positive for health and wellbeing, and a small number of shop fronts which are harmful. Related to this, York has a better ratio of libraries to head of population that the England average. Despite the overall 'health' of the high street, York has a high number of fast food outlets per head. These are concentrated in the more urban parts of York, but are accessed by all residents through online ordering.


This page was last updated on 14 November 2018
This page will be reviewed by 14 November 2019