We’ve known for some time that health inequalities exist, but our new report out today shows the scale of the problem. We found that people living in the poorest areas have double the rate of illness or early death than people in our wealthiest areas. Nearly a third (32.9%) of early deaths and ill health in Scotland could be avoided if the whole population had the same life circumstances as the people who live in our wealthiest areas.

Our report also shows that early death and illnesses associated with the things that harm our health the most, like drugs, tobacco, poor diet, and alcohol, are more common in the poorest areas than in wealthiest areas. 

Dr Diane Stockton, the study lead at NHS Health Scotland said

“The stark inequalities highlighted in our report represent thousands of deaths that didn’t need to happen. Illnesses that people didn’t have to endure, and tragedy for thousands of families in Scotland.

“It does not have to be this way. The fact that people in our wealthiest areas are in better health and that conditions that cause most of the ill health and early death result from things we can change – like illnesses associated with mental wellbeing, diet, drug use and alcohol dependency – shows that it is possible to create a fairer healthier Scotland.

“Our report highlights that to do this, we have to improve the life circumstances of people in our poorest areas and prevent their early death or avoidable ill health. This is about more than encouraging healthy choices. It’s easier to access the things that harm our health in these areas, and so no one type of behaviour change is going to solve this problem on its own. It’s about addressing the environment we live, rest, play, work and learn in so that it supports us to be mentally and physically well. And it’s complex. There is no silver bullet, but, with collective effort for a fairer healthier Scotland, we can help to ensure that everyone in Scotland can enjoy their right to the highest attainable standard of health.”

You can find more information on the report on our Impact of deprivation on health page.