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Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

People who live in poorer areas in Scotland are more likely to die early from disease and have more years of ill health.

The Scottish Burden of Disease Study (2016) Deprivation Report shows that

  • poorer areas have double the rate of illness or early death than richer areas
  • people in Scotland’s richest areas are more likely to live in ill health than die early due to ill health, and the number of years of life affected are much smaller
  • there are differences in rates of early death and ill health seen across socioeconomic deprivation groups by age and sex.

The report also shows that early death and illnesses associated with mental wellbeing, diet, drug use, tobacco and alcohol dependency, are more common in poorer areas than in richer areas. The leading causes of ill health or early death are drug use disorders, heart disease, depression, lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The leading causes of ill health or early death in our poorest areas (by percentage of early deaths and illnesses) are drug use disorders (8.1%), heart disease (7.9%), depression (5.6%), lung cancer (5.3%) and COPD (4.7%).
The leading causes of ill health or early death in our wealthiest areas (by percentages of early deaths and illnesses) are neck and lower back pain (6.4%), sense organ diseases (5.6%), heart disease (5.5%), migraine (5.0%) and depression (4.7%).

Most of the conditions that cause a high proportion of the early death or ill health are related to modifiable factors that affect health.

 To address health inequalities, there are a number of things we can do.

 We can

  • tackle conditions that are more prevalent with higher levels of deprivation
  • put in place more policies to reduce poverty and adversity
  • improve education and work opportunities
  • introduce more regulatory changes such as those seen for alcohol and tobacco
  • improve the environment people live in, such as local planning in communities and housing conditions.

 The next phase of this work will focus on interventions which are most likely to improve the life circumstances of people living in the poorest areas of Scotland.

 The full report is available on the ScotPHO website. 

Get involved

This work is part of the Scottish Burden of Disease study, an ongoing collaboration between NHS Health Scotland and ISD Scotland. Contact us to find out more or get involved.