In 2022, researchers at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow were funded by the Health Foundation to write a report describing trends in health inequalities over the last two decades in Scotland. The report covers inequalities in:

  • The timing and causes of deaths
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Health-related behaviours
  • Health and social care services

Download the report appendices

The report formed part of a series with other reports describing the social determinants of health, and public and stakeholder perceptions of health inequalities in Scotland.

This website presents the key messages that we identified in the report, with examples of findings underpinning these messages. We also provide a repository for downloadable graphs included in the report.

How did we choose which health outcomes to look at?

When deciding what to include in the report we drew on the expertise of stakeholders representing third sector organisations (health, community, poverty), local government, Scottish Government, public health and press/media. Following these conversations, we aimed to provide a wide-ranging review of health inequalities, that considers health across the life-course, and includes issues that stakeholders identified as most important to Scotland.

What aspects of inequalities do we consider?

Health varies according to a multitude of characteristics and experiences, including social deprivation, household income, occupation, education, ethnicity, migration status, gender, sexual identity, and living with disabilities.

The most readily available measure of social inequality over time in Scotland is the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). For this reason, the majority of the data presented focuses on inequalities by SIMD.

In the report itself, we have pulled in findings (where available) according to other aspects of inequalities, in sections called ‘Beyond area-level deprivation’ and in some ‘Spotlights’ which focus on priority groups including care-experienced children, ethnic minority groups and people experiencing multiple disadvantages. The appendices of the report highlight the datasets and data gaps that we identified.

Time periods covered and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

We have measured these outcomes going back to 2000 or as close as that as possible.

The trends extend to the pandemic period if the data were available at the time of writing and thought to be reliable. It is important to note that in many cases inequalities in the UK widened during and after the pandemic. This means that results may not always fully reflect the size of the current problem in Scotland.

Where does the information come from?

Most of the graphs have been created using data which are routinely published by National Records of Scotland, Public Health Scotland, the Scottish Public Health Observatory, and Scottish Long-term Monitoring of Health Inequalities reports.


    Naomi Miall, Research Assistant, Health Inequalities Programme, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

    Gillian Fergie, Research Fellow, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

    Anna Pearce, Senior Research Fellow, Health Inequalities Programme, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow