Population Distribution & Density of the UK

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.

The Population Of The UK Compared To Other Countries

The population density of the UK is 246 people per km2. This makes the UK the third densest country in the EU with the Netherlands taking the number one spot with a density of 395 people per km2. The UK is nine time denser than the US, which has a density of just 27 people per km2. Compared with Bangladesh however (density 1,002 people per km2), the UK appears fairly sparsely populated.

Patterns Of Population Distribution In The UK

The population of the UK is incredibly dense near major cities such as London, Portsmouth and Liverpool. The density is at least 200 people per km2 near these cities. Outside these areas the density generally varies between 11 to 100 people per km2. In central Wales and most of Scotland the population density is incredibly low though, with a density of 1-10 people per km2.

Disadvantages of A Dense Population

Very dense populations put a strain on resources such as food and water. They also put strain on social services such as healthcare. Very dense populations cause housing shortages and often result in the development of shanty towns or alternatively, many high rise apartments. Dense populations increase noise and air pollution since there is a lot of human activity. They also increase congestion as a result of the mass of people using cars.

Advantages of A Dense Population.

A dense population ensures that 100% of available resources are used by a city. As a result, the efficiency in which these resources are used tends to increase to reduce costs which can ultimately end up benefiting the environment since people become less wasteful with resources.

Why Are Some Areas Of The UK Densely Populated?

Liverpool is very densely populated largely due to its use as a port. Since it’s a port it makes the area favourable as a place for immigrants. It also means that industry will build close to the port and, as a result, workers will move closer to the industry increasing Liverpool’s density. Access to good infrastructure in the area makes it an attractive place to live and work and the construction of the Liverpool One shopping centre increased the commercial industry in the area providing jobs and making it more attractive for people to live there.

Why Are Some Areas Of The UK Sparsely Populated?

Most of Scotland is sparsely populated sans a few major cities. This is likely due to the high relief in the area which makes development of good infrastructure hard and so discourages the development of industry in the area making the area unattractive due to a shortage of jobs. In addition, the cold climate would make living in the area hard and, combined with a poor infrastructure, receiving supplies in the winter challenging making it dangerous to live in the area and so reducing the population density.

Reasons why distribution might change

Immigration is a major factor effecting distribution. Immigrants tend to head towards large cities as that’s where work is which results in these areas becoming densely populated. Counter urbanisation is also a major factor effecting population density. Increasingly, people are moving to rural areas which, in turn, is causing an increase in the population density of these areas. An ageing population also plays a substantial role. Retired folk favour living in coastal areas and, as a result of Britain’s increasingly ageing population, these coastal areas may receive an influx of old people resulting in an increase in population density in these areas. Finally, the redevelopment of areas can cause a decrease in the population density of an area since the demolition of high rise buildings in favour of terraced housing reduces the number of people who can live in an area. Conversely, the demolition of small houses in favour of high rise building can cause an increase in the population density.