Politicians last night condemned the “scandalous” inequality identified in a paper submitted to Holyrood by NHS Lothian.
The 21-year gap referred to by the document was calculated when the life expectancies of men living in the impoverished areas of Greendykes and Niddrie Mains were compared with life expectancies of men from the up-market New Town. A man from Greendykes and Niddrie Mains can expect to live to the age of 63.6 years. In contrast, a man living in the more affluent area of New Town west could expect to live to 85.
According to the paper, the frequency of cancer and diabetes was increasing in some areas.
It added that there were “significant inequalities, meaning people living in the most affluent communities in Lothian can expect to live 21 years longer then people living in the most deprived communities”.
It went on to say that people in deprived communities developed “multi-morbidity” – having more than one disease at a time – ten to 15 years earlier than the least deprived.
It said: “There are more people aged under 65 years with multi-morbidity than those aged over 65 years, this is a major factor associated with continual rising demand for access to health care services in Lothian.”
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said it was “staggering” that Scotland’s capital city had such a radical gulf in life expectancy between rich and poor.
“It shows just how dire a situation people in Scotland’s poorest communities find themselves in,” he said.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “A 21-year gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest and poorest in our society is utterly scandalous. The Scottish Government must take urgent action to address the persistent inequalities that are cutting lives short.
Professor Alison McCallum, Director of Public Health and Health Policy at NHS Lothian, said the figures illustrated “the extremities of life expectancy” and had been published to “enable public bodies to identify and respond to the needs of communities in the poorest health”.
She said: “These official figures record male life expectancy in Greendykes and Niddrie Mains at 63.6 years and life expectancy in New Town West at 85 years. The figures illustrate the stark inequity in life expectancy and we will continue to work with our partner organisations to tackle the impact of these unjust differences in our society.”
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “Over the long term, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy in Scotland have increased and premature mortality rates in the most deprived areas are down 11 per cent since 2007.
“We are focused on addressing the underlying causes that drive health inequalities, which has income inequality at its heart, and are putting together a package of bold measures to help people live longer, healthier lives.
“Measures such as investing in affordable housing, providing free school meals and continuing commitments like free prescriptions and free personal care are the right approach to take.”