Scottish mortality rate 'among highest in Western Europe'

An overweight man eating
Image caption The study covered people aged 15 to 74 in Scotland and 19 European countries

Scottish mortality rates among working age men and women have been the worst in Western Europe since the late 1970s, a report has said.

The study examined changing mortality rates in Scotland and 19 other European countries between 1960 and 2010.

It highlighted concerning levels of mortality among 15 to 44-year-olds and older women in Scotland.

But there have been improvements in death rates for conditions such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

The study by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), said: "Mortality in the working-age population remains comparatively high and mortality for circulatory diseases and many cancer-related diseases is higher than in most other Western European countries.

"However, there have been notable improvements in Scottish mortality for a range of major conditions - both in terms of absolute trends and in relation to Scotland's relative position in a Western European context."

'No decline'

The Still the Sick Man of Europe? report highlighted how death rates among woman aged 75 and above have been the highest among the Western European countries featured in the study since 2002.

And it said there had "been no net improvement in mortality in this age group" since 1982 for men and since 1987 for women, which it described as "unusual".

All other 19 countries in the study, apart from Northern Ireland, saw reductions in this mortality rate.

Mortality in the 15-44 age group among women in 2009 was 46% higher in Scotland than in England and Wales, while for men in that group it was 54% higher.

And mortality for women in Scotland from lung cancer has been either the highest or second highest in Western Europe for the past 50 years.

Bruce Whyte, public health programme manager at GCPH and the report's main author, said: "Unlike male lung cancer mortality, which peaked 40 years ago and has dropped substantially since then, female lung cancer mortality rose to its present level in the early 1990s and shows no sign of a decline."

The death rate among women from oesophageal cancer was almost double the Western European average in 2009 at 96% higher.

Smoking and drinking too much alcohol are both risk factors for this disease. The mortality rate for Scots men in this area was 71% higher than the average.

'Notable improvements'

Female death rates from chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, have been the highest in Western Europe for more than a decade.

While male and female mortality rates from cerebrovascular disease, such as strokes, have dropped significantly they have been the second highest in Western Europe for the last 55 years, with only Portugal worse.

However, Scottish death rates from cerebrovascular disease have been gradually moving towards the levels recorded in Western Europe.

Mr Whyte said that while the report's findings "demonstrate that there have been notable improvements in Scottish mortality for a range of major conditions", there are also "many concerning trends".

"Scotland's poor health profile within Europe is well-known, but trends over time vary for different causes of death," he said.

"Among the concerning trends are those for all-cause mortality among the younger working-age population - aged 15-44 years.

"There has been no reduction in mortality among men or women in this age group since the mid to late 1980s and Scotland now has the highest mortality among this age group in Western Europe."

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