Report highlights health gap between rich and poor Scots

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THE POOREST Scots will only stay healthy until they are 47 and will die nearly 20 years before the richest, “shocking” new figures show.

A new survey from the Scottish Government shows the nation’s health gap is now wider than anywhere else in Europe.

Men in Scotland’s most deprived areas have a life expectancy of 68, only a year above the proposed new age of retirement.

They also only have a “healthy life” expectancy of 47, and the most deprived women can only expect to stay healthy until they are 51.

Though the overall life expectancy has gone up, the gap bwteen rich and poor is now larger than anywhere else in the UK.

In Glasgow, experts have calculated every bus top in a journey from affluent Jordanhill in the West End to Bridgeton in the East End reduces people’s life expectancy by 1.7 years.

The new paper, Long Term Monitoring of Health Inequalities, also shows people in the most deprived parts of the country are four times more likely to die of heart disease before the age of 74 than the richest.

“Dr Gerry McCarthy, head of the Public Health Observatory for Health Scotland, said: “Life expectancy overall is getting better but inequalities in life expectancy remain very stark.

“What we know is that, compared to the rest of Europe, inequalities are wider than anywhere else, outwith Eastern Europe.”

David Walsh, of the Glasgow centre for population Health, said: “We are talking about extending working life, but we are seeing parts of Scotland where people are not going to get much time in retirement.

“These figures are shocking and they continue to be shocking.”

The 10% of mean living in the most affluent parts of Scotland can expect to live to 82, 13.3 years more than those in the most deprived parts of the country.

Women in the wealthiest areas live on average 84.6 years, compared to 67.1 for those in the poorest.

The difference in healthy life expectancy is even wider, with men in the richest areas expecting to live to the age of 70 before experiencing health problems.

Those in the poorest areas have a healthy life expectancy of just 47.4.

Women have a similar gap, 51.1 for the poorest and 73.2 for the wealthiest.

Researchers said the most important factors behind the gap were economic.

Dr McCarthy said: “Inequalities in income are the most obvious point for action.

“Clearly, the economic recession and welfare reform are pushing in the wrong direction.

“Health policy is important, but it plays a minor part.”

Social issues in the West of Scotland heavily influenced the figures, he said.

“There was a study recently which looked at the ten poorest constituencies, and i think five or six were in Glasgow.

“So Glasgow communities will be disproportionately represented.”

Public health minister Michael Matheson said: “Overall, health in Scotland is improving, but health inequalities between our more affluent and more deprived communities still exist.

“We continue to address these long standing problems that won’t be solved overnight – we are taking significant action to cut alcohol consumption, reduce smoking rates, encourage active living, healthy eating and promote positive mental health.”

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