Why do Scots die younger?

May 29, 2012, Elsevier

Life expectancy in Scotland is markedly lower compared to other European nations and the UK as a whole. But what are the reasons for this higher mortality? An explanatory framework, synthesising the evidence is published this month in Public Health.

Higher mortality in Scotland is often attributed to higher rates of deprivation, smoking, and . However such explanations are not sufficient to understand why Scotland is so very different compared to other areas. A group of researchers found that no single cause was likely to explain the higher mortality, but the authors assert, as a result of their research, that it may be attributable to a range of factors influenced by the political direction of past decades.

In synthesising this evidence the group of researchers identified candidate hypotheses based on a literature review and a series of research dissemination events. Each hypothesis was described and critically evaluated by a set of epidemiological criteria.

identified and tested included: artefactual explanations (e.g. migration); 'downstream explanations' (e.g. genetics, individual values), midstream explanations (e.g. , family, gender relations) and; upstream explanations (e.g. climate, inequalities, de-industrialisation and 'political attack').

The results showed that between 1950 and 1980 Scotland started to diverge from elsewhere in Europe and this may be linked to higher deprivation associated with particular industrial employment patterns, housing and , particular community and family dynamics, and negative cultures.

The authors suggest that from 1980 onwards the higher mortality can be best explained by considering the political direction taken by the government of the day, and the consequent and community disruption that may have been experienced. Other factors, such as alcohol, smoking, unemployment, housing and inequality are all important, but require an explanation as to why Scotland was disproportionately affected.

"It is increasingly recognised that it is insufficient to try to explain health trends by simply looking at the proximal causes such as smoking or alcohol. Income inequality, welfare policy and unemployment do not occur by accident, but as a product of the politics pursued by the government of the day. In this study we looked at the 'causes of the causes' of Scotland's health problems," said Dr Gerry McCartney, lead author of the study and consultant in public health at NHS Health Scotland.

Explore further: Gap between Scottish and English suicide rates widens

More information: This article is "Why the Scots Die Younger: Synthesising the Evidence" by McCartney G, Collins C, Walsh D, Batty GD; Public Health (2012) doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2012.03.007

Life expectancy for areas in Scotland. Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland. Available at: www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statis … 2008-2010/index.html

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not rated yet May 29, 2012
It would have been cool if this article mentioned the approximate difference in lifespan. 12 years? 12 weeks? I see the link at the bottom but I don't want to try to read pages of data plus the Scottish accent is annoying to may.
not rated yet May 30, 2012
One can make a rough estimation simply by looking at the Figure 1 in the article: from 1950 the approximate life expectancy in Scotland is 4-5 years lower than that in other European nations.
not rated yet May 30, 2012
The whole country is alcoholic. And all that bloody oatmeal hasn't helped a bit.
not rated yet Jun 02, 2012
It would be interesting if they had made a comparison to the people in northern Ireland, since a big part of the Scottish population originated in the old kingdom of Ulster.
not rated yet Jun 02, 2012
The roots of this problem go back hundreds of years. Certainly exacerbated by political decisions in the '80s the stage was probably set in the 14th century when the distinction between Lowlander and Highlander appears to have become firmly established. The British then had on their very own island an "indigenous" people upon which to perfect those practices and policies with which they were able to create the largest empire in history. An empire that peaked around 1922 and did not begin its precipitous decline until 1945. That those indigenous test subject's offspring should still feel the psychological, sociological and anthropological effects is not surprising.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 02, 2012
The whole country is alcoholic. And all that bloody oatmeal hasn't helped a bit.
- bookbinder

And YOU sound like a bloody Englishman. My ancestry is part Scots - Irish and if there's one thing I know, it's the damned English invaders who are the cause of all the misery and pain to all good Scotsmen then and now. My people will never be free until that royal frump and her snotty horse-faced son in Buckingham palace stay out of Scotland forever. They come traipsing with her dogs to Edinburgh as though they had any Scottish bloodlines. Mary, Queen of Scots was the rightful heir to the throne, but the English have always been good at executing rightful heirs.

not rated yet Jun 03, 2012
There is a problem more and more doctors are beginning to recognise. Iron accumulation. Is it mere coincidence the metal iron is found in red hair ? It is because the Scots and Irish are genetically predisposed to increased iron levels.
"Celtic Curse"
"Genetic hemochromatosis, a Celtic disease: is it now time for population screening?"
"The suggestion that the genetic mutation leading to hemochromatosis originally occurred in the Celtic people was initially made by Simon et al"
1 / 5 (3) Jun 03, 2012
You're right. It's a good idea for all those of Celtic ancestry to be screened for hemochromatosis. That includes Scandinavians and many in European countries who are also of Celtic stock. The Scots-Irish seem to be particularly ravaged with this disease/condition, but certainly not ALL of them. My grandmother was a natural redhead with green eyes like mine. She lived to the age of 98.
So a lot of it may depend on body condition, immunity, and whatever else, although I'm not too sure that immunity has much to do with it.
I read that phebotomy actually helps in removing much of the iron, but it usually has to be done on a schedule. But the schedule depends largely on how much iron was removed in the most recent "application". From that information will determine the next scheduling.
not rated yet Jun 04, 2012
Quote: The Scots-Irish seem to be particularly ravaged with this disease/condition, but certainly not ALL of them. My grandmother was a natural redhead with green eyes like mine. She lived to the age of 98
Answer: I would bet the 'dying young' part of the equation is being skewed by the fact the MEN are dying much younger than the women thereby showing a high death rate in Scotland. Women lose iron in their menses which keeps their iron levels lower than men. It has recently been shown women who lose their menses due to hysterectomy begin to load iron at the same rate as men.
"One possible explanation for the gender difference is that during menstruation, iron is eliminated through the loss of blood."

1 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2012
Regarding some of the causes for the premature deaths of young Scots men, there is a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness pervading Scotland, and so much of it has to do with the economy and lack of sufficient work and decent salaries there. It's due mainly to the grotesque politicians of Scotland who care not a whit about the working class, but only the raising of taxes and staying in power. They remind me of Socialist/Democrat politicians in the United States. And now, the Scots are being fed more lies -

"No Gods and Precious Few Heroes, but there's plenty on the dole in the land of the dew" - sung by Dick Gaughan
Total Independence for Scotland and remove the pro-UK Scottish Parliament and you will see a big turnaround in the quality of life and health.
Jun 06, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Jun 06, 2012
The one little known fact , according to Wiki , is the Jewish used to be 'spotted' by their red hair ? The Jewish coincidentally TOO have an iron loading disease , polycythemia. The curious thing is there is only one treatment , bloodletting , for polycythemia and did you know that little stick they use to turn the pages of their 'bible' is a bloodletting instrument ? Curious.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2012
gosh Tom, I didn't know that. But I'm sure you're not talking about the ancient Hebrews of Judah and Israel, since they were basically the same as the Arabs except for their religion. There was no red hair in them back then. It's only after they began wandering around in Eastern Europe and other countries that they intermarried with white Europeans and had blonde and redheaded offspring. That is learned in Genetics classes where Mendel's law is applied to plants and animals.
I would have loved to have red hair like my Grandmother. But I am a natural blonde and I get teased for it....lol
American Jews seem to have a love for blonde hair and if their kids have blonde or red hair, they're very happy and proud, like it's a feather in their cap. I was told that the Jews settled in Khazakstan and that's where they got the red hair. I never really got into it since I'm not Jewish. Just from hearsay and what I see around me.

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