WOMEN living in Scotland die an average 2.14 years earlier than those living in England, new figures show.
And statistics from 2010-12 show the life-expectancy gap has widened, rather than narrowed, in recent years.
Previous figures had showed females born in the 1980s and 1990s in Scotland could expect to live about two years less than their English counterparts.
But a girl born today in England can expect to live to 82.8 years, the comparable figure in Scotland is just 80.7 years.
Meanwhile, a boy born in Scotland today has a life expectancy of 76.5 years against 79 for a boy born in England – a figure which has remained steady over the past few years.
A snapshot of the state of Scotland’s health in a league table of 21 countries released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday showed the life expectancy of women in Scotland ranked third bottom out of 21 countries, below Estonia and Poland and every other UK nation but above Latvia and Brazil.
Top of the women’s league was Japan, with life expectancy of 86.4, second was Spain on 85.1 and third was France, on 84.8 years.
Scotland’s men fared slightly better in the life league tables, coming fifth bottom, above Latvia, Brazil, Estonia and Poland, while Iceland, with a male life expectancy of 80.8 years, came top.
While the results show that life expectancy in Scotland has reached its highest level yet, it still ranks below England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Registrar General for Scotland Tim Ellis said: “While life expectancy at birth in Scotland is higher than it has ever been, it is still the lowest within the UK.”The survey said: “Scotland continues to have the lowest life expectancy at birth of all the constituent countries for both males and females. This could be associated with higher levels of alcohol consumption, a greater smoking prevalence and higher levels of cardiovascular diseases compared to the other constituent countries of the UK.”
Gerry McCartney, head of the public health observatory division at NHS Health Scotland, said poverty played a large part in the shorter life expectancy in Scotland. “A lot of work has gone in to try to establish why the mortality rates in Scotland are worse,” he said. “A large portion of that, about 50 per cent, can be explained by deprivation and poverty. The other half is slightly harder to explain and a lot of research is being done on that. It could be the effects of unemployment over the past 30 to 40 years.”
However, Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: ““Smoking rates in Scotland’s poorest communities are four-to-five times higher than in the wealthiest areas. We must continue to work to address these inequalities.”
Of the gap between women in England and Scotland, Mr McCartney said: “It’s a result for two years: it could be a blip, it could be something like a flu epidemic which can explain a short-term difference in figures. Life expectancy is still increasing for women in Scotland. It’s just growing faster in England.”
Other figures for Scotland highlighted showed the number of people living for a century or more has continued to grow.
In 2012, there were 800 aged 100 or more in Scotland with that figure growing to 13,350 centenarians across the UK. Of these, 660 were at least 105 years old – another record.