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Scotland has had worst mortality rates for more than three decades

'Scotland had highest mortality in Western Europe among working-age men and women since the late 1970s.'

Lung cancer: Services criticised in report.
© STV

Scotland has had the worst mortality rates in Western European among working age men and women for more than three decades, a report revealed.

A new study looked at changing mortality rates in Scotland and across 19 other European countries over the six decades between 1960 and 2010.

It found there have been improvements in the death rates for several conditions, including heart disease, stroke and several forms of cancer.

But the report also highlighted concerns about mortality amongst 15 to 44-year-olds in Scotland, elderly women and the number of females dying from lung cancer.

Looking at people aged 15 to 74, the report said: "Scotland has had the highest mortality in Western Europe among working-age men and women since the late 1970s."

The study, Still 'The Sick Man of Europe'? by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), stated: "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.

"Growing concerns are evident, however, in relation to all-cause mortality among the younger working age population and elderly women, and for female lung cancer."

Death rates among woman aged 75 and above have been the highest among the Western European countries examined in the study since 2002, according to the report.

Mortality among younger working age adults aged 15 to 44 was also a "cause for concern".

The report said there had "been no net improvement in mortality in this age group" since 1982 for men and since 1987 for women.

That was "unusual", with all other 19 countries in the study apart from Northern Ireland seeing reductions in the mortality rate.

In 2009 mortality in this age group among women was 46% higher in Scotland than in England and Wales, while for men it was 54% higher.

GCPH director Professor Carol Tannahill said this was a "particular concern, not least given the importance of this group as parents of young children".

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 — which smoking and drinking too much alcohol are both risk factors for — was almost double the Western European average in 2009 at 96% higher.

Meanwhile, the mortality rate for Scots men from this was 71% higher.

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

While women's mortality from ischaemic heart disease — where the heart muscles are damaged or do not work as efficiently due to a reduced blood supply — has fallen by 80% since 1950, it has remained higher than other Western European countries for the last 55 years.

Male death rates from this are also among the highest in Western Europe, although mortality rates in Finland overtook those in Scotland in 2009.

Despite dropping significantly, male and female mortality rates from cerebrovascular disease, such as strokes, 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 in Western Europe.

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

"Our findings demonstrate that there have been notable improvements in Scottish mortality for a range of major conditions, but there are also many concerning trends.

"There have been sustained long-term reductions in mortality for colorectal cancer, female breast cancer, male lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease among Scotland's working-age population.

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

"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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