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Our people and places

Our people and places

West Sussex is a large and diverse county covering an area of 769 square miles with over half the land designated as protected countryside compared to 23% nationally. 

The population of West Sussex is approximately 859,000 and has increased by 8.6% over the last 10 years. This is broadly in line with increases seen at a national and regional level, with the largest increase, of over 23%, in the 65+ age group.

49% of the population is male

51% of the population is female

The population in West Sussex is projected to increase by a further 8% from 2018 to 2028 with larger increases projected in the 65+ age group (23%+) and notably in the 85+ age group (28%), over the same 10 year period.

Overall, in West Sussex, people enjoy a good quality of life, and have a longer life expectancy when compared with England; life expectancy for men is 80.8 years and 84.2 years for women (2016-18). There are, however, pockets of deprivation where health and social care outcomes for people are affected by their financial and/or social circumstances. Small areas in Arun rank amongst the 10% poorest neighbourhoods in England. People from lower income groups are more likely to be in poorer health, have a limiting long-term illness and lower life expectancy.

Health inequalities persist

Over 70,000 people are living in poverty in West Sussex

Men living in deprived areas have 7.6 fewer years in life expectancy
Women living in deprived areas have 6.0 fewer years in life expectancy

42% of residents and over half of the county’s businesses are located in rural areas. 87% of the rural population lives in small towns and villages, with 13% living in hamlets and farms and houses spread across the county

  • Data from the Annual Population Survey suggests that in 2018, 84% of the population were white UK born. This is higher than the England average of 76.8% and slightly higher than the regional average of 81.9%. 3.3% of the county’s population were born in the UK from an ethnic minority background – this is lower than the national and regional average.
  • 21% of the population have a disability, including 60% of people aged over 80 years. Disability is considered to be physical or mental impairment which has a substantial or long-term effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
  • 96.1% speak English as their first language. The largest group of people speaking a language other than English are those who speak Polish.
  • Over 30% of people aged 65 years or over live alone, representing over
    52,000 people and 15% of all households in West Sussex.
  • There are an estimated 3,400 people aged 15+ years living with moderate to severe learning disability in West Sussex
  • It is estimated that there are 1,100 adults (18+ years) living with autism in West Sussex.
  • It is estimated that 117,400 adults (aged 16+) are likely to have a common mental health issue . Women are more likely to have a common mental health issue than men.
  • Over 16,000 people are estimated to have dementia. This figure is expected to rise to 19,000 by 2025.
  • There are an estimated 93,145 unpaid carers of all ages in West Sussex, representing 10.8% of the total population (similar to the England proportion). There are an estimated 53,961 female carers compared to 39,184 male carers. Over 11,000 female carers, compared to nearly 7,500 male carers, do over 50 hours per week. People over 65 years make up the majority of carers doing over 50 hours per week.

Please see West Sussex Life 2017-20 or the West Sussex Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2019-2024 for more detailed information about the population of West Sussex. Visit and search for West Sussex Life and/or the Health and Wellbeing Board.

Last updated: 11 January 2021