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Health and inequality

Significant health inequalities that persist between the richest and poorest parts of Scotland should “shame us as a society”, according to doctors in BMA Scotland. Men in the most deprived parts of Glasgow can only expect 44 years of a healthy life according to the latest statistics.

Official figures show the gap in healthy life expectancy between Scotland’s least deprived and most deprived communities of 26 years for men and 22.2 years for women. 


The rate of people being treated in hospital for a heart attack is twice as high in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived.
And analysis of cancer deaths in the same age group show people in the poorest areas twice as likely to die than in the wealthiest.
Alcohol related hospital admissions are six times higher on the most deprived areas than in the least deprived.
While the gap in alcohol-related deaths is 28 per cent lower than its 2002 peak, it has been increasing since 2013 and is now 13 per cent higher than in 1997.  The gap in alcohol-related hospital admissions has remained the highest over the longer term, while relative inequalities in heart attack admissions have increased since 2008. The difference in cancer incidence has stayed relatively stable. Relative inequalities in coronary heart disease, cancer and premature mortality have all increased over the long term.

BMA Scotland Chairman Dr Peter Bennie said: “These latest statistics show that efforts to tackle health inequalities still have a long, long way to go. “The gap in healthy life expectancy between our most and least deprived communities is stark and should shame us as a society. “Far greater action is needed to address Scotland’s health inequalities. That means stronger public health measures to address issues like obesity and alcohol misuse, but it also requires action to address problems like low pay, poor educational outcomes and inadequate housing. “We cannot keep letting more years pass without stronger action from every level of government to address these persistent inequalities.”


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