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Comparisons of health-related behaviours and health measures

Date: July 2007
Category: Report
Author: Linsay Gray

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The population of Glasgow has poorer health and shorter life expectancy than elsewhere in Scotland, and Scotland’s health is known to compare unfavourably with that of other European countries. High levels of health-damaging behaviours (excess alcohol consumption, smoking and poor diet) have been proposed as the causes of Glasgow’s poor health. Given the associations of low socio-economic status with such health behaviours and morbidity and mortality, it is unclear whether the unfavourable outcomes seen in Glasgow reflect the high levels of deprivation in the area.

The health-related factors considered in this study are alcohol intake, current cigarette smoking, diet, physical activity and obesity. The health measures examined comprise self-reports of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, general health, long-standing illness, acute sickness, psychological ill-health and health-related quality of life. Finally, comparisons between the Glasgow area and the rest of Scotland are made based on mortality from all-causes combined, and from coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, cancers, chronic liver disease, mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol, mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of drugs, and suicide/self-harm.

It was concluded that the excesses in binge drinking and more general alcohol consumption among men in the Glasgow area, beyond those expected given the socio-economic profile, are clearly linked to the excess mortality from chronic liver disease and should be seen as a matter of urgency by those charged with improving public health. The high levels of psychological distress among men and women in the area also raises concern. However, the strong social patterning of many of the negative health behaviours and other morbidity measures examined accounted for the tendency of Glasgow to have high levels, reflecting its poorer socio-economic position. Improving Glasgow’s health thus remains inextricably linked to tackling the problems associated with deprivation and poverty.