How stark are Scotland's health inequalities? FFS explains 4

How stark are Scotland’s health inequalities? FFS explains

The Ferret and Greater Govanhill magazine have teamed up to examine responses to health inequalities as part of a new collaborative project – Mind the Health Gap.

Over the coming months, we will be investigating the health gap and reporting on potential solutions to the issue. 

To launch the project, Ferret Fact Service looked at some of the indicators of health inequality, to explore how this hits some areas harder than others. 

How stark are Scotland's health inequalities? FFS explains 5

Life Expectancy


Average life expectancy for women in Scotland


Average life expectancy for men in Scotland 

After consistently increasing over the last four decades overall life expectancy stalled in Scotland in 2013-15. This took place at the same time as other causes of death were increasing, particularly drug and dementia deaths. National Records of Scotland measures life expectancy across two-year periods. Between 2017-19 and 2019-21, women’s life expectancy fell by 19 weeks, while men’s fell by 33 weeks. Much of this decrease was due to deaths due to Covid-19.

Postcode related differences in life expectancy is one of the starkest indicators of health inequalities in Scotland.

Women in the most deprived areas of Scotland have a life expectancy 10.5 years fewer than those in the least deprived areas. For men, the gap is 13.7 years. Scotland’s life expectancy is the lowest in the UK. 

Healthy Life Expectancy


Estimated healthy life expectancy for women in Scotland


Estimated healthy life expectancy for men in Scotland

This is different to overall life expectancy, and estimates the number of years people live in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ general health. This is based on how people perceive their own health in an annual survey. Healthy life expectancy in Scotland has reduced in Scotland since 2015-17. 

The difference between the least and most deprived areas in Scotland shows an even wider gap than for overall life expectancy. Those living in the least deprived areas can expect to live in good health for around 24 years longer than those in the most deprived. 

Avoidable Mortality


Deaths registered in Scotland in 2020


Deaths which were considered to be avoidable

Avoidable mortality is a measure of deaths which were preventable or treatable through effective available healthcare. The rate of deaths had been relatively similar in years prior to the 2020, but increased during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Those in Scotland’s most deprived areas are 3.9 times more likely to die from an avoidable death than those in the least deprived areas. The leading causes of avoidable deaths were cancers, circulatory system diseases and alcohol and drug related issues, as well as Covid-19.

Deaths of those aged 15-44


Deaths per 100,000 in 2020


Deaths per 100,000 in 2014

Deaths of those between 15 and 44 are also measured by National Records of Scotland. It tells us how many people in Scotland are dying in the period of their life when they should be relatively healthy. 

The mortality rate of people in Scotland in this age range decreased between 2002 and 2014, but increased again afterwards. 

In 2020, people were nine times more likely to die between the ages of 15 and 44 in Scotland’s most deprived areas compared to its least deprived areas.

Cancer incidence rate under 75 


Cancers of the trachea, bronchus and lung per 100,000 in most deprived areas


Cancers of the trachea, bronchus and lung per 100,000 in least deprived areas

Cancer rates for those under 75 have been broadly increasing in Scotland in the past two decades, from 417.5 people – per 100,000 in 1999 to 447.1 people in 2019. Overall, cancers are more common in the most deprived areas of Scotland, but this is not the case for every type of cancer. 

Mental wellbeing of adults

15 per cent

Had below average wellbeing

24 per cent

From most deprived areas who had below average wellbeing

The Scottish Government measures the mental wellbeing of Scots on the Warwick-Edinburgh mental wellbeing scale. It uses a survey with multiple choice questions to assess the mental health of the population. 
Adults in the most deprived areas are about three times more likely to have below average wellbeing than those in least deprived areas.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Go to, email us at or join our Facebook group.

Photo credit: iStock/KevinAlexanderGeorge

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