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Findings Series 11 - European regional and city comparisons

Date: May 2008
Category: Briefing Paper
Work programme: European post-industrial regions
Author: GCPH

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This paper summarises the work of two separate projects. One looking at the trends in mortality between the West of Scotland and other comparable post-industrial regions of the UK and Europe; and the second used recent health survey data to compare health-related behaviours between Greater Glasgow and other European urban settings.

To enhance understanding of the role of post-industrial decline on the health of Scotland, the first (mortality-based) project aimed to identify comparable post-industrial European regions, and analyse long term trends in morality in these regions for the range of causes.  The second (health survey-based) project aimed to build a deeper understanding of Greater Glasgow’s health by comparing health-related behaviours and health measures in the area with areas in England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Spain, Belgium and Germany.  The extent to which differences were due to variation in socio-economic circumstances was investigated.  

Key findings of this paper are: 

Comparisons of mortality trends between the West of Scotland and other post-industrial European regions showed that:

  • Mortality rates are generally lower and – crucially – appear to be improving at a faster rate in the other post-industrial regions compared to the West of Scotland. This finding is complicated by the fact that the West of Scotland appears to compare relatively favourably with the other regions in terms of socio-economic factors such as wealth, unemployment and educational attainment.
  • The relative poor rates of improvement in mortality in the West of Scotland appear to be particularly driven by mortality among the younger (especially male) and middle-aged female Scottish populations.
  • Striking differences in mortality trends between Scotland and the other regions were observed for a number of specific causes of death including certain cancers, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

Comparisons in health behaviours between Greater Glasgow and a selection of other urban areas in Europe showed that:

  • Greater Glasgow compared particularly poorly in relation to levels of smoking and obesity. Smoking prevalence was higher than in the majority of the European areas analysed (and this was especially true of females); similarly, the majority of European areas included in the analysis had significantly lower levels of obesity among both men and women.
  • More limited comparisons (with other areas within the UK only) showed little difference in levels of alcohol consumption, but suggested levels of physical activity appeared to be significantly higher in Greater Glasgow compared to some other UK settings.
  • Greater Glasgow did not stand out as having a particularly worse socio-economic profile than the other areas analysed.