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Glasgow: health in a changing city

Date: March 2016
Category: Report
Work programme: Understanding Glasgow
Author: Bruce Whyte

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This report is primarily concerned with describing life expectancy trends since the early 1990s in Glasgow and examining these in terms of changes in neighbourhood-, deprivation- and gender-related inequalities. In order to reflect the broader context for these health trends, a description is given of changes in population, housing, environmental and socioeconomic circumstances at a city and neighbourhood level.  

The study reaffirms known health challenges and identifies new concerns: 

  • despite improvements in life expectancy for men and women in the last fifteen years, life expectancy in Glasgow remains significantly lower than in Scotland and there has been no appreciable narrowing of the gap relative to Scotland
  • the health gap between our most deprived and affluent communities persists
  • a widening in the gap in female life expectancy between our most and least deprived areas
  • a relatively poor trajectory for female life expectancy compared to males over recent years, particularly in the most deprived half of Glasgow.   

In terms of policy there have been positive developments. Addressing health inequalities has become a clear and distinct priority for the Scottish Government.  Helpfully, there is also now substantial evidence about a range of national and local policies that could be actioned to create a more equal society and to reduce health inequalities. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of efforts to reduce Glasgow’s and Scotland’s health and social inequalities will depend not only on the actions taken and their focus, but will require sustained effort and political will.  

Action to address Glasgow’s and Scotland’s health inequalities is urgently needed across a range of fronts. The focus of health and social inequality policy needs to shift ‘from word to deed’.