The causes for health inequalities are very complex and seemingly conflicting. Recent studies show that death rates in Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool in 2003 and 2007 were much higher than anywhere else in the UK. This is because these cities all have the same crucial issue – poverty and it is estimated that 25% of their populations are classed as ‘deprived’. There are many crucial factors to health inequalities, including poverty in which the CASSI report linked together. Perhaps one of the main issues is lifestyle choices.
The North-South divide clearly shows that Scotland has major health issues. The investigation of the 3 cities (Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool) shows that lifestyle is an important issue. It shows that Scottish people are more likely to die at a younger age, have strokes and get heart disease if they live in deprived areas, compared to their English equivalents – which still have bad health. The report illustrates that the death rate is 15% higher in Glasgow than in the other two cities, hence the phrase “The Glasgow Effect”. Six out of seven of the worst areas in Scotland are in Glasgow, where those in Edinburgh are expected to live on average four years longer. The average life expectancy for a man in Scotland is 75.3 and 79.9 for a female, yet in England it is 78 for a male and 82.1 for a female – showing that the North South Divide is important when looking at health inequalities.
Smoking and obesity are both issues linked with social class and poverty. In Social Class 1, 13% of women are obese, but it is Social Class 2 where it increases to 25%. There are many illnesses related to obesity including heart disease. 66% of people in Scotland are classed as overweight, and 4 people die every week due to obesity. The struggling NHS forks out £125 million pounds per year to treat obese people. Messages from the government have helped to reduce smoking by 75% in Social Class 1 but Social Class 2 only by 35%. 15% of people in Clarkston (Glasgow) smoke, whereas in the poorer area of Nitshill 44% of people smoke. Smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease and death. Alcohol misuse also separates social classes. 1 in 4 men in Glasgow admit to having a drinking problem with 200,000 dependant
on alcohol, and 40% of women – therefore it is no surprise that it’s a major cause of premature death in Scotland. Glasgow has the highest alcohol related deaths in the UK where two thirds are from the most deprived areas. Someone born in Caltson has a life expectancy of just 54 years, but someone in Lenzie, just a matter of miles away, can expect to live to 82 years old. The life expectancy in India is 62, 8 years more than in Calton despite the fact that 80% of the population in India live in poverty, highlighting the lifestyle choices of people can impact on health.
The most recent Government report states that “There is a clear relationship between income equality”. It tells us that more than two thirds of the total alcohol related deaths were in the most deprived areas and that those living in these areas of Scotland have a greater suicide risk – more than “double that of the Scottish average”. Clearly, those with money can afford to buy a gym membership, private healthcare and other things which improve their quality of life and therefore they have a better lifestyle than poorer people – thus showing a link between poverty and health, as those in rich areas can expect to live 30 years more than those in poor areas.
Finally, ethnic origin is a factor which can influence health inequalities. An example of this is those originally from Pakistan and Bangladesh are five times more likely to suffer from diabetes than the white population. Indians are three times more likely at risk than whites. Pakistani and Bangladeshis men and women face a higher risk of heart disease than average, whilst Chinese face a lower than average risk. This highlights the thought that your ethnic origin can affect your health.
To conclude, I believe that both poverty and lifestyle contribute to poor health, although I believe that poverty is more of an issue than any other factor.