NHS report lays bare Scotland's health inequalities

24 August 2018, 07:10

Doctor Generic

People living in Scotland's poorest areas have double the rate of illness or early death than those in the wealthiest parts, an NHS study has found.

The new research highlights "stark inequalities" between the health of those living in the most and least deprived areas.

In the poorest areas those aged 15-44 are more likely to die or suffer ill health from drug use disorders and depression.

In the wealthiest areas, migraine and neck and lower back pain are more common contributors.

Almost 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 the wealthiest areas, NHS Health Scotland said.

Dr Diane Stockton, who led the study, 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 well-being, diet, drug use and alcohol dependency, shows that it is possible to create a fairer healthier Scotland."

The rate of dying early from or living with ill health caused by drug use was found to be 17 times higher in the poorest areas, while the figure for alcohol dependence was 8.4 times higher.

Men in the poorest areas are more likely to die early from ill health than women.

Alcohol Focus Scotland said more needed to be done to tackle the widespread availability of alcohol and reduce consumption, while Ash Scotland said it supported the call to create healthier environments for people facing inequality.

Chief executive Sheila Duffy said: "We know that you're nearly three times more likely to smoke if you live in Scotland's poorest communities, compared to our most well-off areas.

"Smoking is the largest cause of preventable ill-health in Scotland.

"We need to help the majority of smokers, who want to quit, to succeed."