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Changing mortality rates in Scotland and the UK: an updated summary

Date: February 2023
Category: Summary
Author: David Walsh, Gerry McCartney

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There is now a large body of evidence detailing the unprecedented changes to mortality rates that have taken place in Scotland, and across the wider UK, in the past ten years. These trends, including increasing death rates among poorer communities and the end to decades of previously continual improvement at country level, predate the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been made worse by it. 

Detailed research has attributed these changes principally to the implementation of UK Government austerity policies which have adversely impacted on the health of poorer populations across the UK. Since we published a critical assessment of all that evidence in 2022, yet more important research has emerged in the academic literature.

This summary paper:

(i) briefly summarises that new evidence; and 

(ii) updates previously-published mortality trends for Scotland and its largest cities to include the most recent years of data available.

In doing the above, this paper provides further evidence of detrimental changes to different aspects of population health: further widening of all-cause and cause-specific mortality inequalities, a dramatic reversal of previously declining mortality rates among socioeconomically deprived populations, an unprecedented decline in healthy life expectancy, and worsening trends in poor mental health. The (much smaller) contribution of obesity to stalled national mortality trends is also quantified.

Access further information on this body of research.