Social aspects of living in Portsmouth

With a population of just under 190,000 people Portsmouth is the 75th largest town or city in the United Kingdom. The ratio of males to females is 49% to 51% and is in line with the regional south east and national figures. Almost 40% of the population are aged between 20 and 44 years, which is around 5% higher than the regional and national figures. Conversely, Portsmouth has barely 20% of its citizens in the age range 45 to 64, some 2% to 3% lower than the regional or national figures. Perhaps surprisingly for a harbour and port of such long standing, Portsmouth is not a very ethnically diverse city. Ethnically the residents of Portsmouth reflect regional and national trends with almost 95% of its residents being classed as white, 1% of mixed ethnicity, 2.5% Asian, 0.5% Black and the other 1% being mainly of Chinese ethnicity. These figures may seem surprising considering the importance of Portsmouth as a port and harbour.

From the 2001 census the people of Portsmouth would appear to be less healthy than the rest of the south east.  Nearly 9% of the residents stated that they were not in good health compared to only 7% regionally. However, the figure is in line with the national trend, which is also 9% of people stating they were not in good health. Life expectancy in Portsmouth is also below that of the regional and national averages. The overall life-expectancy for a male resident of Portsmouth is just under 75.5 years compared with nearly 78 years regionally and 76.5 nationally. The life expectancy of a female in Portsmouth is slightly under 80.5 years, which is roughly in line with regional and national trends.

According to the 2001 Census Area Statistics  the city of Portsmouth had just fewer than 145,000 people over the age of 16. 55% of those people were living as a couple and 35% of them were married. 27% of the population were classed as single and never married. 8% of residents were widowed and living alone and 7% of the residents were divorced and living alone. Given the intense population density of the city, approaching 47 people per hectare, it is little surprise that detached hoses and bungalows make up only 4% of the housing stock, even the percentage of semi-detached housing, 16%, is well below the regional and national averages at 28% and 32% respectively. Conversely the percentage of people living in terraced housing or a flat is much higher than regionally or nationally. 48% of the population live in a terraced house and 30% in a flat. Both of these statistics exceed regional and national averages by more than 10%. Approximately 65% of all dwellings in Portsmouth are privately owned, lower than both regional and national averages. The number of privately rented properties in Portsmouth is 5% higher than regional and national averages at around 15%, the remaining housing stock is largely council owned.


56% of the population of Portsmouth would socially be said to be ‘middle-class’ falling into the C1 and C2 bands and  22% fall into bands D and E and as such are defined as ‘working-class’, with the remaining 22% being labelled as being in band A and B. Of the eligible population, only around 35% are in full-time employment. Generally speaking a lot of Portsmouth residents must work outside of the city as their average commuting distance to work is over 8km (5 miles), only just over 16% of those workers use public transport to get to work, the vast majority of whom, over 47%, use their own car. More encouragingly nearly 20% walk or bicycle to work.  A surprisingly high percentage of households in Portsmouth do not own a car or van, 38%, well above the regional and national averages.  Whilst the percentage of households with one car or van is in line with national and regional trends at 44% the number of households with more than one car or van is again below regional and national averages. This is presumably a reflection on the population density, proportion of terraced housing and, therefore, reduced parking opportunities.

How safe is Portsmouth to live in or visit? Crime figures for the city are largely in line with national statistics. However, regarding ‘violence against a person’ the figure for Portsmouth, 36.06, is nearly double the national average of 19.97. Theft from motor vehicles is also higher than the national average at 13.43 per 1000 population compared to a national figure of 9.56. However, you are less likely to be robbed in Portsmouth. In Portsmouth 1.35 in every 1000 people are robbed, which is 27% below the national average.

As a large city in 2006 Portsmouth city schools  did not fare well in national attainment tables. In Primary schools at Key Stage 2 the Achievement and Attainment tables in the three core subjects at Level 4 or above were English 74%, Mathematics 67% and Science 81%. The Portsmouth Local Authority figures were 5%, 9% and 6% below the national average in all three subjects. At Key Stage 4 (Secondary schools) the percentage of pupils scoring at least 5 GCSEs at grade C or above was just 29.2% compared to a national average of 45.8%.

Portsmouth has one university, Portsmouth University. Inaugurated in 1992 the university was formerly the Portsmouth Polytechnic, which in turn was founded as the Portsmouth and Gosport School of Science and Arts in 1869. According to the ‘Good Univerities Guide’ (GUG), Portsmouth University is ranked 77th out of the 100 UK universities.

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