Statistics from National Records of Scotland (NRS) shows that life expectancy has fallen in 17 of Scotland’s 32 council areas for men and in 12 for women. Progress around health equality has also stalled and even fallen backwards in some areas according to NRS, with those living in the least deprived areas living significantly longer and healthier lives than those in more deprived areas.

The overall life expectancy in Scotland in the NRS report for 2016-18 is found to be 77 years for men and 81.1 for women. These figures have remained broadly the same since the 2012-14 report was released, as Scotland’s life expectancy growth stalled. But the latest report shows that life expectancy has not only stalled in almost all areas of Scotland, but that it is decreasing in many.

Professor Derek Bell OBE, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

This report reaffirms what we have known since the Black Report on health inequalities in the early 1980s; that life expectancy - particularly healthy life expectancy - is lower in deprived areas and is multifactorial.

It is significant that progress on life expectancy has stalled in recent years, and the reasons for this will be complex. We believe that there are measures which can be taken now to improve public health across Scotland, particularly in our poorest communities.

Two of the biggest health issues that Scotland faces are obesity and diabetes. It is estimated that around 2 out of 3 adults in Scotland are clinically obese.

Price promotions on foods that are high fat, sugar and salt are more likely to be attractive to people with less to spend on their weekly grocery shop. The College therefore support controls on price promotions of high fat, sugar and salt foods, and we back the promotion of healthier food. We also support the reduction of food portion and pack sizes, as well as retaining and strengthening the sugary drinks tax.

But healthy life style is important too, and we must ensure that we are a healthy and active nation through improved diet and exercise.

We are encouraged that the Scottish Government has already taken measures to improve public health; for example minimum unit pricing and the smoking ban in public places. But there is certainly more that can be done. The prevention of obesity and diabetes must be a priority for the Scottish Government where possible. And we want to see action taken to reduce health inequality. 

At a local level, Integration Joint Boards and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships can have a key role in tackling public health in communities, and we have already seen success in some areas.


Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen 0131 247 3658