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Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

Public Health Scientists from NHS Health Scotland have contributed to a paper out today which shows that mortality rates have worsened across almost all age groups against a backdrop of widening inequalities. The research indicates drug-related deaths, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the biggest contributors to shorter life expectancy.     

Life expectancy is a marker of overall health, and over the last few years has stopped increasing and even declined in the period 2015 to 2017, especially for people in our poorest areas. But by better appreciating how changes in death have contributed to these trends we can better understand how to reverse them and ensure people live longer, healthier lives.

Gerry McCartney, Head of the Scottish Public Health Observatory said:

“Everyone should have the right to live a long, healthy life, no matter how rich or poor. It isn’t right that people in our poorest places are facing a shorter life expectancy when some of the causes of death are preventable. It’s a real concern that where you live and how much money you have affects your health and how long you live.

“When you live in a poor area, the environment can negatively impact on both your physical and mental health. Poverty restricts people and can be isolating, causing anxiety, stress and poor health. Ensuring that people have the incomes they need, for example increasing the value of benefits, can protect people from these harms and improve quality of life and life expectancy.

“Pressures on health and social care services are also part of the reason for the recent trends. We all rely on public services and adequate funding is crucial to meet growing needs, especially for the most vulnerable groups. One of the ways we can make sure people receive the right care at the right time is by protecting budgets for these services.

“We need to look further at how the social security system and public services may be contributing to the trends in life expectancy we see here. But we also need to focus on employment, affordable housing and school costs so people are able to not only achieve a decent standard of life, but thrive. Current levels of poverty are not inevitable and we all have a role to play in tackling the social and economic inequalities driving it. I’m optimistic that we can reverse these trends and ensure everyone enjoys a fairer, healthier Scotland.”

A large programme of work is underway to increase our understanding of the trends and to make clear recommendations for what needs to be done. We are co-ordinating the Scottish work under the auspices of the Directors of Public Health through a Mortality Special Interest Group (SIG). 


The full paper is available to read here.

For more information on mortality trends, visit the ScotPHO website.