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Health inequalities persist in Scotland

03 October 2017 | Tags: Scotland, Scottish Health Survey

People who live in the most deprived areas of Scotland have poorer health, are less likely to exercise and are more likely to smoke than those living in the least deprived areas – but women’s drinking habits buck this trend. This is according to findings from the 2016 Scottish Health Survey, published today.

The survey, conducted by ScotCen Social Research, shows that 35% of people living in the most deprived areas smoke cigarettes. This is three times more than those living in the least deprived areas (11%). In total, 21% of adults smoke, down from 28% in 2003.

Researchers also found differences in levels of physical activity in relation to deprivation. People in the most deprived areas of Scotland are less likely to be physically active than those in the least deprived areas. Just over half (54%) of people in the most deprived areas meet the Scottish Government’s guidelines for physical activity, compared with three-quarters (74%) of those in the least deprived areas.

When it comes to cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, those in the most deprived areas are more likely to have such a condition than those in the least deprived areas (18% and 12% respectively).

The Scottish Health Survey also examined the extent to which people have more than one health risk factor including smoking, harmful drinking, low physical activity and obesity. The findings demonstrate that people in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to have two or more risk factors than those living in the least deprived areas.

Average alcohol consumption among women highest in least deprived areas

On average, female drinkers in the least deprived areas had higher weekly consumption levels (9.7 units) than female drinkers in the most deprived areas (7.5 units), although this is less than the recommended weekly maximum of 14 units.

However, the survey shows that among those who drink above the recommended maximum of 14 units per week, people in the most deprived areas tend to drink more than those in the least deprived areas.

Overall 16% of adults do not drink alcohol, up from 11% in 2003. One in four adults (26%) in the most deprived areas do not drink alcohol, compared to one in 10 (11%) of those in the least deprived areas.

Other findings show that:

  • Adults’ vs children’s diet: Children eat more food high in fat and sugar than adults. Children are twice as likely as adults to eat sweets, chocolate or crisps at least once a day.
  • Obesity: Adult obesity levels in Scotland remain stable; however, the mean average BMI among adults aged 16+ has increased significantly, from 27.1 in 2003 to 27.7 in 2016. Men and older adults are more likely to be overweight or obese.
  • Fruit and veg: Adult consumption of fruit and vegetables is moving further away from the 5-a-day recommendation. At 3 portions per day, consumption is at its lowest since 2003.
  • Mental health: 19% of 16-24s reported signs of a possible psychiatric disorder, compared to 10% of those aged 65-74.
  • Unpaid care: 1 in 7 (15%) adults provide regular, unpaid care. Women aged 45-54 (27%) were most likely to do so. 5% of those aged 12-15 provide unpaid care and 1% of those aged 4-11.
  • Physical activity: Two thirds (64%) of adults, and three quarters (76%) of children meet physical activity guidelines. Men and boys were more likely than women and girls to meet the guidelines.
  • Respiratory health: In 2016, 4% of adults reported having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Smokers and people living in the most deprived areas were most likely to report COPD.

Joanne McLean, Research Director of the Scottish Health Survey at ScotCen Social Research said: “The persisting health inequalities in the Scottish population is a matter for national concern. Improving the health outcomes of more deprived people in Scotland is one of the most important challenges for public health professionals and policy makers to address in the coming years. Given that people in more deprived areas are more likely to have multiple health risk factors, now may be the time for a more joined-up approach to public health interventions than we have previously seen.” 

“The relatively poor diet of Scottish children compared to adults is also a worry. Our research highlights the need for public health professionals, policy makers and families with children to do more to improve poor eating habits amongst children”

ENDS

The summary and full reports can be downloaded from the Scottish Government's website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Health/scottish-health-survey/Publications

For media enquires please contact Sophie.brown@natcen.ac.uk; 0207 549 9550 / 07734 960 069

Notes

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.

The Scottish Health Survey has been designed to provide data on the health of adults (aged 16 and above) and children (aged 0-15) living in private households in Scotland. In 2016, 4,323 adults and 1,561 children took part in the survey.

The survey is commissioned by Scottish Government Health Directorates to provide a detailed annual assessment of the health of the Scottish population, and has been running since 1995.