Inequality of life expectancy in Scotland

26th February 2019

A new study has found that, despite reductions in premature death rates in Scotland over the last 30 years, rates in the most deprived areas in 2011 remained higher than in the least deprived areas in 1981.

Using routinely collected Scottish death and population records from National Records of Scotland, researchers calculated directly age-standardised death rates by age group, sex, and deprivation
for all causes of death and specific causes of death around each census 1981 to 2011.

For men and women of all ages, all-cause death rates decreased between 1981 and 2011. Female deaths were 26% lower than males in 2011, compared to 36% lower in 1981. Rates decreased most in the youngest age group (0–14 years) and at 45–74 years.

For those aged under 65, deaths from circulatory causes such as ischaemic heart disease more than halved between 1981 and 2011 and cancer deaths decreased by a third (with greater relative declines in the least deprived areas). Over the same period, alcohol- and drug-related causes and male suicide increased, with greater increases in more deprived areas. For men, alcohol-related death rates increased by 80% and drug-related deaths rates by 227%. Most of the increase in drug-related deaths occurred in the 30–44 age group.

There was also a significant increase in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for men and women aged over 75.

Dr Denise Brown, Statistician/Epidemiologist said:

“Overall we saw a decline in absolute inequalities across all deaths. That is, rate reductions were highest in the most, compared to the least, deprived areas. Although important from a public health perspective, so too is progress in the reduction of relative inequalities. Between 1981 and 2011, male deaths reduced by 58% in the least deprived areas but by just 37% in the most deprived. Reducing deaths due to drugs, alcohol and male suicide would help to decrease widening relative inequalities and reduce premature mortality in Scotland.”

All-cause and cause-specific mortality in Scotland 1981–2011 by age, sex and deprivation: a population-based study is published in the European Journal of Public Health.


First published: 26 February 2019

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