Scotland still failing to shrug off its position as the Sick Man of Europe

SCOTLAND remains the “sick man of Europe”, a new study has revealed.

SCOTLAND remains the “sick man of Europe”, a new study has revealed.

The report, which looked at health patterns across Europe over the past 60 years, found Scots are still among the unhealthiest and the most likely to die young.

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It revealed that mortality rates had failed to improve for men and women aged 15 to 45 since the mid-1980s.

The report said there had been “no net improvement in mortality in this age group” since 1982 for men and since 1987 for women.

Scotland has the highest mortality rate among this age group in western Europe. Even when compared with other UK countries, mortality was 46 per cent higher in Scotland for women and 54 per cent higher for men.

Experts say many of the deaths in this age group are preventable – the result of higher rates of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse and homicide, rather than chronic health conditions.

The study, Still ‘The Sick Man of Europe’? by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), looked at changing mortality rates in Scotland and across 19 other European countries between 1960 and 2010.

Death rates for women aged 75 and older have been the highest among the European countries examined in the study since 2002, according to the report.

Mortality for circulatory diseases and many cancer-related diseases is also higher in Scotland than most other western European countries.

Report author Bruce Whyte, public health programme manager at GCPH, said: “Scotland’s poor health profile within 
Europe is well known, but trends over time vary for different causes of death.

“There have been notable improvements in Scottish mortality for a range of major conditions, but there are also many concerning trends. Among [them] are those for all-cause mortality among the younger working-age population.

“There has been no reduction in mortality among men or women in this age group since the mid to late 1980s, and Scotland now has the highest mortality among this age group in western Europe.”

Mr Whyte said the figures were due to higher rates of preventable conditions, including suicide, particularly in men, as well as alcohol and drug abuse in both sexes.

He believes economic factors play a major role, with studies showing people in poorer areas continue to die at a younger age.

Mr Whyte said: “Policy which tackles health issues can and does work. Lung cancer rates have been reduced in men and there have been improvements in the number of people dying of heart disease and strokes.

“Policies such as minimum pricing for alcohol are likely to have a major impact on improving these rates.”

The report, published today, highlights some improvements, notably a fall in deaths from colon cancer, breast cancer, male lung cancer and heart disease in Scotland’s working-age population.

GCPH director Professor Carol Tannahill said there was “particular concern” for the high death rates in young people in Scotland, “not least given the importance of this group as parents of young children”.

Public health minister Michael Matheson said: “We are working to address early mortality in younger working-age people by taking significant action to cut alcohol consumption, reduce smoking rates and drug addiction, to encourage active living and healthy eating.”