Demand for action as health gap between rich and poor widens

Scots living in the poorest parts of the country are four times as likely to die early than those in wealthy neighbourhoods.

Scots in poor areas are more likely to die early than those in wealthy neighbourhoods
Scots in poor areas are more likely to die early than those in wealthy neighbourhoods

The situation has been described as “unacceptable” by health chiefs with calls for urgent action from the Scottish Government to address the issue.

The country’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol, cigarettes and junk food lie at the heart of the problem, with ministers admitting there are still “stubborn and entrenched” issues which have not been tackled.

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Almost 21,000 people in Scotland died before the age of 75, formally classed as prematurely, in 2017. Although this is lower than at any time in the past 20 years, the mortality rate is four times higher than the most deprived areas.

Deaths from cancer, heart disease and alcohol abuse are all significantly higher in these least affluent areas - and the gap is increasing, according to Scottish Government statistics published yesterday.

Lewis Morrison, chairman of BMA Scotland, said “persistent and substantial” problems can no longer be ignored.

“These statistics should leave us in absolutely no doubt that stark and unacceptable health inequalities persist across Scotland.

“The significantly worse health of those who live in our most deprived areas compared to the substantially better outcomes for those who live in the least deprived areas is a persistent, substantial issue that simply cannot be ignored.

“Finding solutions must be at top of the political agenda and something we strive to achieve across society.”

The inequality gap for deaths involving alcohol has risen in each of the past five years but is still 30 per cent lower than its 2002 peak.

Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Tackling the inequalities in health that the most deprived and ­vulnerable in our society experience is one of the most important challenges we face as a ­country.”