Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Island lifestyle looks terminal for men

Updated at end with Phil Hanlon, Professor of Public Health at Glasgow University, interview.

It comes as no surprise that Scotland, and particularly the west of Scotland comes top of the league in the shortest male life expectancy statistics released this morning.

But ranked 4th in areas with the lowest life expectancy at birth is Na h-Eileanan an Iar, the hebridean constituency and the only rural area in the league table.

Get born in the Western Isles you can expect to live to 73 years and five months, two years longer than the poorest part of West Dunbartonshire.

The islands are ranked at 7th lowest in life expectancy at age 65. Adopt the Western Isles lifestyle and you can expect, on average, to live three months longer than someone in the most deprived areas of North Lanarkshire.

The stats aren't reflected in the female population either at age 65 or at birth. I'm not a health journalist, or a health professional, but something's going wrong here, either in statistical measurement, or in male lifestyles in what one would expect be one of the healthiest places in Britain.

The full report is available here and the extract below shows ranking, area, and life expectancy in years beyond 65.

Lowest male life expectancy at age 65, 2007–09

1 Glasgow City 13.9
2 West Dunbartonshire 15.3
3 North Lanarkshire 15.4
4 Inverclyde 15.5
5 Renfrewshire 15.7
6 LiverpoolNorth West 15.7
7 Na h-Eileanan an Iar 15.7
8 RossendaleNorth West 15.8
9 SalfordNorth West 15.8
10 HaltonNorth West 15.8

UPDATE: Phil Hanlon, Professor of Public Health at Glasgow University tells me that there is no single factor responsible for low life expectancy figures in the islands.

The factors that affect the islands are the same as the west of Scotland - the cumulative effect of a historically high rate of chronic diseases,relatively low income levels, the 20th century legacy of rise and fall of heart disease.

"Harsh lifestyle" might come into it too, thinks Professor Hanlon, because the islands have never had particularly good health stats.

He was reluctant to single out alcohol abuse or cigarrete smoking. The fag stats are the same as the rest of Scotland and while consumption of alcohol is high in the islands it seems no more people drink themselves to death there than anywhere else.

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