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Resetting the course for population health

Date: May 2022
Category: Report
Author: Gerry McCartney, David Walsh, Lynda Fenton, Rebecca Devine

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Mortality rates, and related indicators such as life expectancy, are important markers of the overall health of a population. We, and others, have previously reported the profound and deeply concerning changes to these indicators that have been seen in Scotland, and across the UK, since around 2012: a stalling in mortality improvements overall, increasing death rates among the most deprived communities, and a widening in inequalities. 

This report provides further detailed analysis and evidence of the mortality changes that have occurred. It critically appraises the evidence for a range of hypotheses that have been suggested as possible contributory factors. These include reduced improvements in cardiovascular disease; an increase in obesity; an increase in deaths from a range of causes including drug-related deaths, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, flu, and weather and temperature extremes; demographic factors; and austerity policies.

From the assessment of the evidence, it reports UK Government economic ‘austerity’ policies (implemented as cuts to public spending including social security and other vital services) as the most likely contributory cause. Finally, it outlines a total of 40 recommendations to address the crisis, targeted at UK, Scottish and the local level. These span macroeconomic policy, social security, work, taxation, public services, material needs, improved understanding, and social recovery from Covid-19. 

An accompanying animation that summarises the evidence can be accessed here