Life expectancy in Calton - no longer 54

02 June 2015

Bruce Whyte on life expectancy in the Calton area of Glasgow, highlighting media reporting of male life expectancy and looking at current estimates.

The oft-quoted statistic that life expectancy in Calton is 54 years, a figure used in a number of newspaper headlines in the last decade, is misleading and out of date, and should not be used to describe life expectancy in Calton now.

More recent estimates of life expectancy - not for Calton as previously defined, but for the combined neighbourhoods of Calton & Bridgeton – show that life expectancy for men and women has risen in recent years but has remained below the Glasgow average.  In the period 2008-2012, male life expectancy at birth was estimated by GCPH to be 67.8 years, while female life expectancy was estimated at 76.6 years.

Background on the original figure

The original figure of ‘54 years’, which was actually an estimate of male life expectancy at birth, came from a set of community health profiles published by Health Scotland in 2004.  The measure used is an estimate of the expectation of life at birth within a defined population and is calculated via life tables based on population estimates and reported mortality figures.  The estimate for Calton was based on deaths in the period 1998-2002. The area was defined as the postcode sector G40 2, which in 2001 had a population of approximately 2,500 people.  This was a very small population and, as a result, the estimate had wide confidence limits. 

As was made clear in the original publication, but which did not feature in media coverage, one factor which is likely to have contributed to the low life expectancy estimate at the time was that there were clusters of deaths in the area which were associated with the presence of particular hostels which looked after adults with a variety of problems related to drugs, alcohol, homelessness and mental health.   Local circumstances, therefore, alongside the small population size, are likely to have skewed the estimate.  

For a more detailed critique of the estimate see Annex B of National Forum on Drug Related Deaths in Scotland: Annual Report 2008-09.

Further information about Calton and Bridgeton

14 years on from 2001 (the approximate year the original estimate referred to), much has changed in the area.  Many of these hostels have now shut down under Glasgow’s hostel closure and re-provisioning programme, and the population and housing in the area have changed dramatically.

The population of the wider Calton & Bridgeton area increased by 36% between 1996 and 2012, with a large part of the increase due to a rise in the number of young adults living in the area. The population has become more culturally diverse with the proportion of people from a minority ethnic group increasing from 3% in 2001 to 12% in 2011. Housing stock rose by nearly 2,000 dwellings between 2001 and 2013, equating to a 31% increase in housing stock compared to 2001.

For further information about the Calton & Bridgeton area, have a look at the Calton & Bridgeton neighbourhood profile.


About the author

Bruce Whyte Public Health Programme Manager


Bruce co-leads the Centre’s ‘Observatory Function’ and is responsible for developing and managing a comprehensive public health information programme. His main areas of work include: managing and developing the Understanding Glasgow website and leading a programme of research on active and sustainable travel. 

He has previously undertaken a comparison of Scotland’s mortality profile within Europe and managed a programme of research into breastfeeding in a Scottish context. Bruce jointly coordinates the national PHINS (Public Health Information Network for Scotland). He is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow.

Read all articles by Bruce Whyte