Study finds Covid widening life expectancy gap between Scotland’s poorest and richest

THE DEATH rate in the most deprived parts of Scotland is almost two times that of the most affluent areas – with higher mortality rates for the poorest Scots from Covid, suicide, alcohol and drugs.

New research from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) has revealed that for all causes of death, the mortality rate for the most deprived areas was 1.9 times that of the least deprived areas in 2020.

The study also found that the mortality rate for drug deaths was 18.4 times higher in the poorest areas, 4.3 times higher for alcohol-related deaths and 2.4 times higher for Covid-19 fatalities.

The NRS report, Scotland’s Population 2020 – The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, found that “there is a huge gap in healthy life expectancy for people in the most and least deprived areas”.

The study found that males born in Scotland’s most deprived areas “can expect about 25 years fewer in good health” than those born in the most affluent areas, with the gap more than 21 years for females. The report adds that the Covid-19 pandemic “appears to be increasing this effect”.

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at NRS, said: “As has been clear in much of our analysis, Covid-19 has impacted individuals, groups and communities in quite different ways.

“An ongoing challenge is how deprivation continues to have a significant and negative impact on how we live and die in Scotland.

“A female born in Scotland’s most deprived areas is likely to have only 50 years of good health. Her peer in our least deprived areas would expect to have over 70 years of good health. The picture is even slightly worse for males.”

For Covid-related deaths, “the gap in mortality rates between the most and least deprived areas has increased as the pandemic progressed” with it increasing from 2.1 times as high in the early stages of the crisis to 2.4 times as high.

The study found that in the first three months of the pandemic, deaths of South Asian people “were almost twice as likely to involve Covid-19 than deaths of white Scottish people”.

But the research found “there was no evidence of a significant difference for Chinese or white Irish people, compared to white Scottish people”.

Julie Ramsay, head of vital events at NRS, said: “Since the first registered Covid-19 death in March 2020, NRS has reported on over 10,500 such deaths.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of people across Scotland. But it is clear from our statistics that this impact has varied over time and across the country.

“We know that there have been two clear waves so far. Also, death rates in our most deprived communities were 2.4 times as high as those in our least deprived communities. This is a higher gap than the general mortality rate.”

The report highlights the 1,339 drug deaths recorded in Scotland last year, warning that “drug-related deaths have been increasing since 1996 but since 2013 the upward trend has been steeper”.

It adds that the number of drug deaths in April, May, June and July of 2020 “was significantly higher than it was during the same months in the last five years”.

The research found that the number of alcohol-related deaths “was especially high” in April 2020 and from August to November “compared to the last five years”.

NRS found that the 1,190 alcohol-specific deaths in 2020 was a 17% increase on 2019 and the highest number recorded since 2008. The 17% rise in alcohol-related deaths in 2020 wiped out and reversed a 10% decrease in 2019.

The study highlighted Scotland’s ageing population – with the country now home to around 400,000 more older people than in the 1990s. Over the same period, the number of children has reduced by about one tenth while those aged over 65 has grown by more than one third.

Statistician for population and migration statistics at NRS, Beth Watson, said : “We are living longer. People aged 65+ now outnumber people under 16.

“We need to understand how our population is ageing so we can prepare for it. For example, the number of people dying from Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has roughly tripled in the last 20 years.

“These changes will put greater demand on health and social care services.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992