White Scots have poorer health than many other ethnic groups

Published 23rd July 2019

A new study by the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit has found that White Scottish people are more likely to rate their health as bad and experience higher socioeconomic inequalities in health than many other ethnic groups.

The study used the 2011 Scottish Census to calculate rates for two self-rated health outcomes: poor general health and limiting long-term illness by ethnicity, age and deprivation.

White Scottish, Pakistani and those of mixed and other ethnicity are most likely to rate their health poor and report a long-term condition that limits their day-to-day activities, while those of White Polish, Chinese and African background are least likely to report health problems.

The health of White Scottish people is also self-rated worse than that of the White British and Irish living in Scotland.

The study found some ethnicities are more likely to rate their health poor at younger ages and others at older ages. Indian people are more likely than other ethnicities to experience poor self-rated health after the age of 45, while having relatively low levels of poor health prior to this. White British on the other hand experience some of the best self-rated health from the age of 45, while being more likely to rate their health poor at younger ages.

The Pakistani population has high rates of poor health similar to the White Scottish for ages 15-44, but at ages 45 and above Pakistani people have the highest rates of poor self-rated health. Compared to other ethnicities, Pakistani people living in the least deprived areas of Scotland are also more likely to experience poor health.

Rates of ill health among people over 75 are increasingly similar across all ethnicities, but elderly Pakistani people report the worst health.

Use this tool to draw plots of how self-rated health is associated with small-area deprivation for different ethnic and age groups in Scotland. 

Plot tool

Dr Mirjam Allik, Research Associate said:

“While we found that some minority ethnic groups have better health and lower socioeconomic inequalities in health compared to the White Scottish majority, this often applies only to younger age groups and at older ages this can be the reverse.

“Since health inequalities vary by ethnicity, policy interventions for health improvement in Scotland that focus only on deprived areas may inadvertently exclude minority populations.”

Differences in Ill Health and in Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health by Ethnic Groups: A cross-sectional study using 2011 Scottish Census is published in Ethnicity and Health.

First published: 9 July 2019

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