Inequalities in health and life expectancy are large

People living in the most deprived tenth of areas in Scotland can expect to live 24 years less in good health than people living in the most affluent areas.

Key points

  • The collective impact of large inequalities in life expectancy and general health in Scotland is shown by the 24-year gap in healthy life expectancy between the most and the least deprived tenth of areas.
  • In 2018-20 the absolute gap in life expectancy between women living in the most compared to the least deprived tenth of areas was 10.2 years. For males, that difference was even greater, at 13.5 years.
  • The starkest inequalities are seen for outcomes relating to the timing and cause of death, including avoidable deaths and deaths related to drugs, alcohol and suicide i.e. deaths of despair.
  • Those living in the most deprived fifth of areas are five times as likely to die from an alcohol-related cause, and 20 times as likely to die from a drug-related death compared to those living in the least deprived fifth of areas.
  • The level of inequalities seen in these harshest of outcomes is not necessarily surprising, as they are the culmination of the inequalities we see across many different aspects of health, health-harming exposures, and barriers to health services.

Related Graphs

Absolute inequalities in avoidable mortality in males were falling during the 2000s, but have started to increase


Drug deaths have increased exponentially since 2013 and those living in the most deprived areas are 20 times as likely to die


There were large declines in absolute inequalities in alcohol deaths in the first decade of the 21st century, but these have stalled and inequalities remain large