Scotland continues to have significant health inequalities. That was the message from yesterday’s publication of the latest Long-term Monitoring of Health Inequalities report from Scotland’s Chief Statistician, showing that health inequalities continue to be a menace on Scottish society. The report reinforces what we already know – the stall in progress in life expectancy and rising health inequalities comes against a backdrop of influencing factors, such as changes to the welfare state and continued austerity. It confirms that action is needed to improve the lives of people locked into poverty.

The report finds that significant health inequalities persist for health indicators, including alcohol-related hospital admissions; heart attack hospital admissions; and cancer incidences. Whilst absolute inequalities (the gap between the most and least deprived areas) have narrowed over the longer term, relative inequality has increased, suggesting there is still much to do. 

Dr Gerry McCartney, Head of the Public Health Observatory at NHS Health Scotland said:

“We know that the economic downturn and changes to the social security system both negatively impact on health, and that underlying influences such as poverty and austerity also have an important part to play. The fact you are now 4 times more likely to die early in our poorest areas than our wealthiest, is cause for concern.  What yesterday’s statistics tell is us is that there are no quick fixes – the causes of health inequalities are multiple and complex.

“We need solutions that improve the life circumstances of people in our poorest areas to prevent their early death or avoidable ill health. And that’s about addressing the environment we live in, giving everyone the opportunity to be mentally and physically well. People living in poorer areas don’t choose to be ill or die young.  We need to work collectively to ensure that everyone in Scotland can enjoy their right to the highest attainable standard of health.”