Islington women have the lowest levels of happiness, life satisfaction and feelings that life is worth living, while also suffering from the highest levels of anxiety, according to a study conducted by the National Centre for Social Research for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
The research also found that Islington ranked lowest in environment and wellbeing, ranking 379th for both, closely followed by housing affordability (375th) and safety (369th).
So, what are the reasons behind Islington’s poor ranking?
The statistics appear to suggest that the borough is suffering a crisis of mental health. The council claims that 1 in 6 adults in Islington have at least one diagnosed mental health condition. They also claim that people in contact with mental health services in Islington have a mortality rate that is 3.6 times higher than that of people in London and in the whole country. On top of that, deaths due to suicide are higher than both London and the National average, with rates significantly higher in women.
These issues also have a knock on effect. Statistics from the council show that there is a 65% gap in employment rate between those in contact with mental health services and the overall figures.
Safety is another big issue for women in the borough. High profile acid attack incidents occurred in Islington last year with one taking place on Copenhagen Street, Barnsbury in April and another on St Paul’s Road, Highbury in July. According to Met Police data, there were over 700 reports of sexual crime occurred between January 2017 and January 2018. But, in Westminster, there were 36% more sexual offences in the last year than in Islington.
Support networks in North London are also struggling. Late last year, Solace Women’s Aid, a charity supporting victims of domestic violence, was forced to turn people away because of pressures on funding. The charity has two refuges in Islington and claimed they have only one space for every three women seeking refuge.
What do women in Islington actually think?
“It’s definitely a very divided borough. The prosperity is very evident and the poverty is not much less evident if you know where to look for it,” said Roberta Wedge, who is campaigning for a statue of feminist hero Mary Wollstonecraft to be erected on Newington Green.
She added: “Islington is one of the places where cheek by jowl as an expression comes into its own in a way that is so vivid. If Mary Wollstonecraft was alive today she would see the rich and the poor and recognise that some things have changed a lot and some things haven’t changed a lot.”
Annie, who runs a vintage clothing store on Camden Passage, disagrees. “It’s the best place to be a woman. We have a wonderful female MP in Emily Thornberry who visited the shops in Camden Passage and seemed to be quite engaged in solving issues for small shops and overheads.
“There’s so much to do here that isn’t at all ageist. There’s the Almeida, the comedy and all the theatre life. I can go to my local, The Duke of Cambridge, and read the newspaper with a glass of wine by myself. Where else would I be able to do that? My friend, Penny, has had houses all over the world and country and she’s decided to settle here so there must be a reason for that.”