Life in sleepy Ambridge, home of the Archers, may be slow-paced – but it also stands a heightened chance of being cut violently short, research has revealed.
A study looking at the fate of characters in the fictional Borsetshire village found death rates from accidents and suicide were seven times greater than the national average.
Over 20 years of the BBC radio soap a total of 15 deaths were recorded in Ambridge, nine male and six female.
Overall mortality was slightly lower than that of the general population of England and Wales, at 7.8 per 1,000 for men and 5.2 per thousand for women, but fatal accidents and suicides accounted for 27 per cent of total deaths – a far greater proportion than predicted by national trends.
Heart disease deaths were also more common than the average.
Medical writer Rob Stepney, whose analysis of the Ambridge statistics is published in the British Medical Journal, concluded: “The epidemiological features that seem to stand as dramatically different from the normal are the high proportion of deaths due to accidental or self-inflicted injury, which is sevenfold greater than that expected on the basis of national data, and poor survival after myocardial infarction (heart attack).”
During the study period there was a fatal road traffic accident, a death caused by an overturning tractor, a gunshot suicide, and Nigel Pargetter died after falling from the roof of his stately home, Lower Loxley.
Ambridge, with a population of 700, is set in a rural area of the midlands south of Birmingham.
Listeners to the soap are directly acquainted with 60 inhabitants but have knowledge of a further 55. To compensate for the 15 deaths over two decades, 13 children were born to the total cast of 115 characters, said Mr Stepney.
The annual live birth rate was half the national average – 5.6 per 1,000 of the population compared with 11.4 per 1,000 in England and Wales.
But despite its tally of trauma, the Archers cannot compete with urban TV soaps when it comes to characters being killed off.
Previous research revealed that the death rates in popular soaps Coronation Street and EastEnders “exceeded those of bomb disposal experts and racing drivers”, Mr Stepney wrote.