'D' is for deficiency

(Aug 28, 2018)

The United Kingdom has long had persistent regional disparities in mortality, and thus in life expectancy.  A large part of this is due to socio-economic mix, as shown in a much earlier blog.  However, as Gavin showed in a comparison of three UK cities, socio-economic variation cannot wholly explain Glasgow's excess mortality.  There are many possible contributory factors, but in this blog we focus on one: sunshine.

An obvious difference between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom is that it gets less sunshine.  Figure 1 shows the monthly average hours of sunshine between 1981 and 2010:

Figure 1. Average monthly hours of sunshine across the U.K., 1981-2010. Source: Met Office.

And even when Scotland…

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Tags: Scotland, sunshine, vitamin D

Occupational Hazard

(Jan 25, 2018)

We previously considered Sir Michael Marmot's landmark Whitehall Studies, which looked at health and mortality outcomes for UK civil servants. Sir Michael continues to research UK mortality, and has recently been drawing attention to the fact that improvements in UK life expectancy appear to be slowing down. Since 2010, life expectancy, previously increasing at around one year for every four, appears to have down-shifted to one year in every six-and-a-half for men, and every ten for women. The big question, of course, is why?

It goes without saying that national populations are never homogeneous. We've seen evidence of this both within US subpopulations and between different areas in the UK. It is therefore…

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Tags: longevity, research, mortality, employment, Scotland, socio-economic group

The strange case of Scotland's missing improvements

(Nov 15, 2014)

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a New Scientist: Live presentation given by Sir Harry Burns entitled "Making Scotland Well Again", which was an examination of the links between social conditions and incidence of disease. We've written about mortality in Scotland before, but from his diverse roles including consultant surgeon, Glasgow's director of public health and former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Harry Burns has unique insight into the matter.

A core aspect of the situation for Burns is its relative recency. He reflected upon the fact that Scottish life expectancy sat around the Western European average until just after World War II. After that time, Scottish mortality simply…

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Tags: mortality, longevity, Scotland, Glasgow

A Tale of Three Cities

(Oct 14, 2013)

Given my birthplace, I have a more than casual interest in the causes of excess mortality experienced by Scots beyond that explicable by deprivation alone. The phenomenon of a 30% excess in premature mortality and a 15% excess in general mortality appears most concentrated in the west of the country, to the extent of even being dubbed in some quarters the Glasgow effect.

The nub of the issue can be seen by comparing the mortality in Glasgow to two cities with comparable levels of deprivation - specifically Liverpool and Manchester:

It is worth noting that the direct sources of the excess mortality are fairly well understood - according to the Glasgow Centre for Population Health the hunt is on for the underlying…

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Tags: mortality, longevity, Scotland, Glasgow

Health Experiments

(Jun 17, 2013)

One interesting aspect of Scottish devolution is the different path charted in health policy.  Residents of Scotland have long had a shorter life expectancy than other parts of the United Kingdom, which is partly a function of greater smoking prevalence and poorer diet (amongst other deleterious health behaviours).  Greater alcohol (mis)use is another major problem area, and it is interesting to see some of the trailblazing public-health policies in recent years for alcohol and tobacco:

One obvious initiative - increasing the tax on alcohol,…

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Tags: Scotland, alcohol, tobacco, smoking

Diet? What diet?

(Apr 8, 2012)

A while back I wrote about the lower life expectancy in Scotland. This has a number of drivers, but poor diet is one of them. In the same blog I made a reference to the nutritional abomination that is the deep-fried Mars bar.  One of our London-based clients confessed that he thought this was a myth made up and propagated by the media. Sadly, I can confirm that it is no myth, as evidenced by the picture I took this weekend of a sign in a cafe window in Broughton Street, Edinburgh:

Deep-fried Mars bar

You might think this is bad enough. However, the same cafe also offers a topical alternative to its patrons:

Deep-fried Cadburys creme egg

We wish all our readers a relaxing Easter break. Preferably without deep-fried confectionery.

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Tags: Scotland, diet

Where there's smoke...

(Jul 24, 2010)

Amongst its other claims to fame, Scotland produced one of the earliest prominent anti-smoking campaigners - our very own King James VI was an early opponent of tobacco consumption and smoking:

"A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs"

King James VI & I, A Counterblaste to Tobacco (1604)


Fans of historical fact will note that when King James wrote this he had also become King James I of England and Ireland.  Unfortunately, the king's Scottish subjects didn't listen to him, then or now, and Scots have a higher incidence of smoking than other parts of the United Kingdom:

"In 2003, 26% of British adults aged 16+ smoked cigarettes…

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Tags: smoking, lung cancer, Scotland

A Scottish question

(Sep 2, 2009)

The Scots are an innovative bunch, including the inventor of the telephone and the discoverer of penicillin.  Not all of our innovations have been positive, however.  Human welfare did not advance with the invention of the deep-fried Mars bar, for example.

With such dietary crimes it comes as no surprise that the Scots are known for having the shortest life expectancy within the four countries of the United Kingdom.  This even extends to select sub-groups, such as the portfolio of pension annuitants behind Table 1.

Table 1.  Time lived between ages 60 and 95 for males in United Kingdom (curtate life expectancies for holders of pension annuities).

Male life

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Tags: Scotland, region, geodemographics

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