THEY may live less than 40 miles apart, but it could literally mean the difference between life and death.

New research has found that a man living in parts of Southampton can, on average, expect to live to the age of 71.

But in one rural village just a few miles up the M3, women are typically living for another 30 years – and sometimes even more.

Figures from Public Health England have revealed the huge differences in life expectancy across the country and even the county.

Statistics reveal that women’s life expectancy in Southampton is more than three years higher than the opposite sex, a disparity reflected in many areas of the south.

According to the statistics, up to 2011, a woman who lives in Southampton all her life can expect to live on average 82.6 years, but a man can only expect 78.2 years.

Across Hampshire, average life expectancy for women is 83.7 and 80.2 for men – better than the national average.

Locally, men and women in Valley Park, Chandler’s Ford, have the highest life expectancy, with women expected to live to 89.3 and men to 84.7.

However if you’re looking for the secret to eternal life, it might be worth moving to the Beggarwood area of Basingstoke, where the average life expectancy for women is 104.3 – the second highest in the country.

The figure is just short of Northumberland which stands at 105 for women, while men live the longest in Westminster, reaching 97.7 years.

Life expectancy has continued to increase in England, rising 3.2 years for men and 2.4 years for women from 2000 to 2012. Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, said there were a number of reasons for the disparity.

He said: “The evidence is clear – a person’s likelihood of dying early varies widely between areas due to differences in risk factors such as being overweight, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, but these factors are also closely linked to economic deprivation and aspects of the way we live that may be bey-ond an individual’s control.”

Dr Andrew Mortimore, director of public health at Southampton City Council, said life expectancy was increasing in the city, with heart disease and stroke death rates reduced and cancer survival rates improving, and there were signs that the gap in health was narrowing. But he added more needed to be done to lessen the “unacceptable differences”.