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Scottish Health Survey shows the deprived, elderly, and smokers most vulnerable to poor lung functionality

29 July 2014

New analysis from the Scottish Health Survey has been released today providing a picture of how healthy the nation’s lungs are. The study, conducted by ScotCen Social Research, shows that the elderly, smokers, and those from Scotland’s most deprived areas have the poorest lung function.

Key findings from the report show:

  • 7% of men and 10% of women in Scotland had abnormally poor lung function (as being measured by the amount and speed of air that can be inhaled and exhaled)
  • Poor lung function increased with age and was around three times as high in those aged 75 and over as those aged 16-44.
  • Participants from managerial and professional households had better lung functionality than those in semi-routine and routine households
  • The proportion of adults with abnormal lung function rose in line with increasing deprivation, particularly those in the most deprived quintile

The analysis of data from the 2008-2011 surveys shows that for men smoking history, educational attainment, income and living in a city are all associated with ‘probable airflow limitation’. For women however, ‘probable airflow limitation’ is primarily associated with age and smoking history measured in ‘pack-years’; a gauge that combines both duration of smoking and daily cigarette consumption.

Predictably, abnormal lung function is greatest among smokers. 25% of female smokers and 30% of male smokers are identified as having the poorest classification of lung functionality, compared with just 16% of women and 12% of men who’ve never smoked. Individuals with the highest ‘pack-years’, are most likely to have the poorest lung function. Lung function was best among those that have never smoked and those who stopped more than 10 years previously.

Lisa Rutherford, Research Director of the Scottish Health Survey commented: “The clear message here is that we shouldn’t be complacent about smoking. However beyond this the research shows smoking isn’t the only factor related to lung function. Gender, income and area deprivation need to be borne in mind in any efforts to improve the respiratory health of the nation.”

Full report: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/07/8837

Media contact: Jamie Barclay, jamie.barclay@scotcen.org.uk / 0131 221 2573

Notes to Editors

ScotCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.