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Heart health in Scotland: latest findings

Posted on 26 September 2011 by Lisa Given, Research Director at ScotCen .
Tags: Scottish Centre for Social Research, Scottish Government, Scottish Health Survey, health and lifestyle

The Scottish Health Survey provides a yearly update on the health of Scottish people. This year’s report takes data from interviews conducted in 2010, and again focuses on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors.

This year’s publication is particularly timely - two days before World Heart Day (29th September), and following the UN General Assembly’s declaration on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and respiratory disease. NCDs are a real issue, being estimated to account for 63% of deaths worldwide.

Heart disease or stroke causes a quarter of deaths in Scotland. The survey found that in 2010, 20% of men and 17% of women in Scotland had a cardiovascular condition or diabetes. At 75, over half of men and nearly 4 in 10 women have these conditions.

The UN declaration highlighted four key risk factors for NCDs: smoking, harmful alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity, all of which were explored in the survey. The Scottish Health Survey reported that in 2010, 25% of adults aged 16 and over were smokers, 49% of men and 38% of women drank more than the recommended guidelines,[1],22% of adults ate the recommended five a day, and 45% of men and 33% of women met the recommendation to do least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. The latter two factors contribute to weight gain, another risk factor. The figures here are striking: 65% of adults in Scotland in 2010 were overweight or obese, 28% were obese. Although overweight and obesity was on the rise in Scotland for some time, it has appeared to have steadied more recently.

Traditionally, such studies look at these risk factors in isolation. However, the latest report considers the impact of multiple risks in Scotland, that is, people with more than one of the risks described. The prevalence of such cases is highlighted by the fact that just 2% of adults in 2010 were non-smokers, drank within recommended limits, ate 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, were physically active and not overweight or obese. More encouragingly, only 4% had all five risks, but 59% of adults had at least three risks, and 24% had four or five.

The report’s findings will be relevant for Holyrood’s recently formed Cross Party Group on Health Inequalities. The analysis of multiple risks in the Scottish Health Survey showed that low levels of education, being out of work, and living in deprived areas all increased the likelihood of multiple risks. The Scottish Health Survey’s data will aid the Cross Party Group in providing solutions to a significant health challenge.

Note: The Scottish Health Survey is commissioned by the Scottish Government and is conducted by the Scottish Centre for Social Research, the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences, Glasgow, and University College London.

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