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by Kirsteen Paterson
31 October 2023
Death rates for Scotland’s most deprived areas twice as high as for most affluent

Govanhill, Glasgow, is an area of multiple deprivation. Image: Iain Masterton/Alamy

Death rates for Scotland’s most deprived areas twice as high as for most affluent

Deaths rates in Scotland’s most deprived communities are almost twice as high as in the wealthiest, official figures show. 

A new report from National Records of Scotland (NRS) shows the gap is almost 16 times wider for deaths linked to drug misuse. The gap between the most and least deprived communities is four times as large for alochol-related deaths and twice as big for suicides.

Overall life expectancy has improved over the last four decades. 

However, improvements have stalled in the last ten years and have recently begun to reverse. 

The Scotland’s Population report for 2022 records Covid as a major cause of the recent fall in life expectancy. 

However, increases in deaths by drugs, dementia, Alzheimer’s and a slowdown in the decrease in coronary heart disease deaths have all been found to have contributed to the stalling in life expectancy improvements. 

Julie Ramsay, head of demographic statistics at NRS, said: “2022 saw the largest year-on-year decrease in drug misuse deaths on record but it was still 3.7 times as high as it was in 2000. 

“People in the most deprived areas were almost 16 times as likely to die from drug misuse as those in the least deprived.” 

The report also shows that there are now more people aged 65 and over than those under 15. 

Fertility is now at the lowest recorded level and is one of the lowest in Europe. 

Life expectancy was 80.7 years for women and 76.5 years for men in 2020-22, dropping by 5.7 weeks and three weeks on the 2019-21 figures.

The Scottish Government will publish a two-year delivery plan for its new dementia strategy in early 2024.

Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie blamed “political decisions made by the SNP”. She said: “It is simply wrong that those from the most deprived areas are more likely to die early.

“Only by tackling Scotland's drug crisis head-on and rebuilding our NHS can we begin to lessen the shocking levels of inequality that have grown under the SNP.”

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Tory shadow health secretary, said: “This report must be an urgent wake-up call for health secretary Michael Matheson and the SNP government. They need to get a grip on the public health crisis engulfing our deprived communities in particular, and stop death rates spiralling out of control.”

Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham said: “My thoughts and condolences are with all those who have lost a loved one.  

“Scotland’s communities experience health, quality of life and even life expectancy differently across our society. We will continue to work with our partners, including Public Health Scotland and National Records of Scotland, to understand what is needed at a national and regional level to support local, preventative action to drive improvements in population health and to tackle inequalities.”

She went on: “Through our £20m national mission on drugs, which has helped support more than 300 grassroots projects, we are doing everything within our powers to tackle drug deaths and the total  drugs and alcohol budget has increased again to £161.6m in 2023-24. We will also increase our focus on a whole-government approach.”

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Read the most recent article written by Kirsteen Paterson - Anas Sarwar: Labour will give 'wealth and power' to working people.

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