Why Scots die younger: It's down to smoking, drinking and a poor diet (but higher deprivation caused by decades of poor political decisions doesn't help)

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UPDATED:

16:53 GMT, 30 May 2012

Scotland's shorter life expectancy is not just due to higher rates of smoking and drinking and a poor diet but is also the result of decades of bad political decisions, according to researchers.

The country's mortality rate is markedly higher than in other European countries, including the rest of the UK.

This has been caused by a range of factors influenced by the political direction of the last 60 years, and in particular since 1980, a study by NHS Health Scotland claims.

A Glasglow slum: Scotland's shorter life expectancy is not just due to higher rates of smoking and drinking and a poor diet but is also 'the result of decades of bad political decisions'

A Glasglow slum: Scotland's shorter life expectancy is not just due to higher rates of smoking and drinking and a poor diet but is also 'the result of decades of bad political decisions'

Scientists identified and tested a range of reasons for why those living in Scotland die at a younger age; they found no single cause.

These included migration, genetics, individual values, substance abuse, climate, inequalities, deindustrialisation and 'political attack'.

The researchers found that between 1950 and 1980 life expectancy in Scotland started to diverge from elsewhere in Europe.

They believe this was linked to higher
deprivation due to industrial employment patterns, housing and urban
environments, community and family dynamics, and negative health
behaviour cultures.

From
1980, they attribute the country's higher mortality to the political
direction taken by the governments of the day, and the consequent
hopelessness and community disruption that was experienced as a result.

LIFE EXPECTANCY IN SCOTLAND LAGS BEHIND REST OF THE UK

A Government study, published last October, found that Scotland still lags behind the rest of the UK, with life expectancy at birth of just 75.8 years for males and 80.4 years for females.

Life expectancy in central Glasgow is the lowest in Britain – just 71.6 for males and 78 for females.

Residents of Kensington and Chelsea, on the other hand, have the longest life expectancy with males expected to live to 85.1 and females to 89.8.

Its neighbouring borough Westminster is second, with other front-runners including areas of Dorset and Surrey.

Several other regions of Scotland and industrial cities such as Manchester and Belfast.are also lagging far behind the national average of 78.2 years for men and 82.3 years for women.

The study said: 'For over half a century, Scotland has suffered from higher mortality than comparably wealthy countries, and for the last 30 years has suffered from a new and troubling mortality pattern.

'It is unlikely that any single cause is entirely responsible, and there is uncertainty around why Scotland started to diverge from elsewhere in Europe around 1950.

'It is clearer that the health and
social patterns that emerged from the 1980s are more closely linked to
negative health behaviours (eg alcohol consumption), but these
behaviours are, in turn, heavily influenced and shaped by the social,
cultural and economic disruption which occurred as the political and
economic policies of the UK changed from the late 1970s.'

Other
factors, such as alcohol, smoking, unemployment, housing and inequality
are all important, the scientists said, but require an explanation as
to why Scotland was disproportionately affected.

Lead
researcher Dr Gerry McCartney said: 'It is increasingly recognised that
it is insufficient to try to explain health trends by simply looking at
the proximal causes such as smoking or alcohol.

'Income
inequality, welfare policy and unemployment do not occur by accident,
but as a product of the politics pursued by the government of the day.

'In this study we looked at the “causes of the causes” of Scotland's health problems.'

The study is published in the journal Public Health.