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Scottish life expectancy stalls due to drug, dementia and heart disease deaths

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Scottish life expectancy stalls due to drug, dementia and heart disease deaths

Scotland’s population has increased to a “record high” of 5.44 million people but Scottish life expectancy has stalled, attributed to an increase in deaths from drugs, heart disease and dementia, National Record of Scotland (NRS) data has revealed.

Further, Scotland's fertility rate is the lowest in the UK and has been falling at a faster rate than all other UK countries.

Released today, the NRS report on Scotland’s population showed Scottish residents have been living longer for three decades, but since 2012-14 “life expectancy growth in Scotland has started to slow” and actually decreased by 2.6 weeks for men and 3.1 weeks for women in 2015-17.

The most recent data indicated a boy born in Scotland in 2015-17 had a life expectancy 77-years-old, while a girl could expect to live to 81. In boys, 62.3 years would be in “good health” and another 14.7 years in “poor health”, for girls the figure was 62.6 in good health and 18.4 years in poor health.

NRS investigated why life expectancy had stopped increasing and found since 2012 there was “a slowdown” in the improvement of deaths from heart disease, especially for people aged 55 to 74.

It also discovered a surge in the number of younger people, aged 35-54, dying from drugs and an increase in the amount of people aged over 75 dying from dementia.

A slowdown in life expectancy is also happening in the UK overall, and European countries including France and Spain.

Looking at council areas, Glasgow City had the lowest life expectancy for both genders, 73 for men and 78 for women, and those living in East Renfrewshire had the highest life expectancy – 80 for men and 83 for women.

The report showed deprivation and health were “closely linked”, with a 13-year difference in life expectancy between men living in the most deprived (decile one) 10 per cent of Scotland, to those in the least deprived (decile 10) 10 per cent.

“Males living in decile 10 could also expect to spend 22.5 years longer in good health than males in decile one,” the research said.

In 2018 there were 1,553 (three per cent) fewer births in Scotland than the previous year, which was the “second lowest figure recorded”, the report said.

In 2008 there was a peak of 60,041 births in Scotland, but that figure dropped to 51,308 in 2018.

Since the mid-1970s the gap between births and deaths has been close and has switched from positive to negative a few times. Since 2015 there have been 2,500 more deaths than births.

Scotland’s “crude birth rate” (the number of live births per 1,000 people) dropped to its lowest recorded level in 2018 – at 9.4, compared to 17.9 per year in the late 1960s.

There were 58,502 deaths registered in Scotland in 2018, one per cent higher than the previous year and “the highest annual total since 1999”, the report said.

The rate of population growth slowed for the second year running, from 0.6 per cent growth to 0.2 per cent between 2017 and 2018 to 5.44 million.

Overall the population has been growing since 2000 and is now at a “record high”, increasing by about 235,200 people year-on-year.

The report found Scotland’s population growth was driven by migration, with 20,900 more people arriving than leaving in the year to mid-2018.

“In contrast, Scotland had negative natural change with 7,700 more deaths than births over the same period,” it said. “This is the largest natural decrease on record.”

The population increased in 18 Scottish council areas, while 14 areas saw a decrease.

Tourism, culture and external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop said it was clear from the report that Scots “face a number of challenges”.

“Against a backdrop of a record fall in the birth rate, Scotland’s population is ageing with a shift in population from the west to east and declining population in rural areas,” she said.

“With all of Scotland’s population growth predicted to come from migration, the impact and risk of Brexit means that we may not have a large enough working age population to support public services, industries and our economy.

“The cornerstones of a strong economy are productivity, participation and population. We need to grow our population to ensure we have sustainable, vibrant and resilient communities and drive improvements in inclusive growth.”

Registrar General for Scotland Paul Lowe said slowed population growth was “due to the combined effect of a fall in net migration, fewer births and more deaths”.

“This year’s review shows that there have been changes in Scotland’s life expectancy and mortality trends,” he said.

“Life expectancy in Scotland has been increasing over the long term, but recent estimates indicate that it has stopped improving.

“The largest causes of the stall in life expectancy are the slowing of improvements seen in the reduction of deaths from heart disease and increases in drug related deaths.”

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