The life expectancy of people born in many parts of Scotland has fallen, as health chiefs continue to be worried about the worsening figures.

After decades of steady improvement, progress has stalled in almost all areas of Scotland according to official figures from National Records of Scotland (NRS).

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Life expectancy fallsCamley's Cartoon: Life expectancy falls

Experts were already aware that improvements in life expectancy were slowing down – as they have been in many several high income countries.

But the statistics paint a bleak picture with people in deprived areas faring worst, with doctors saying the reasons are complex but include "persistent, stubborn and scandalous inequalities".

Statistics published today by National Records of Scotland show that life expectancy improvements have stalled in almost all areas of Scotland, with many areas now experiencing decreasing life expectancy.

Key points

• Life expectancy for those born in 2016-2018 was 77.0 years for males and 81.1 years for females.

• Healthy life expectancy for those born at the same time was 61.9 years for males and 62.2 years for females.

• Life expectancy has either stopped increasing or has decreased in almost all council areas since 2012-2014.

• Males in the most deprived areas of Scotland could expect to live for 13.1 fewer years than those in the least deprived areas, while the equivalent gap for females was 9.8 years.

• Deprivation has an even bigger effect on healthy life expectancy with males in the least deprived areas spending 23.0 extra years in good health compared to those in the most deprived areas. For females, the healthy life expectancy gap was 23.9 years.

Paul Lowe, the Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland and Registrar General for Scotland, said: “The new figures show that the stall in life expectancy growth which we have seen for Scotland as a whole is happening in almost all areas across Scotland. However, the rate of change varies amongst council areas with some slowing more than others and some showing falling life expectancy.

The figures also continue to show that those living in less deprived areas are expected to live longer, healthier lives than those in more deprived areas.”

Dr Nikki Thompson, deputy chair of Scottish Council at BMA Scotland, said: “These statistics leave us in absolutely no doubt that stark and unacceptable health inequalities persist across Scotland. It is 2019 and we should not tolerate a society where those in some areas of the country will spend an extra 23 years in poor health compared to those living in Scotland’s most affluent areas. We need much more concerted action on public health, particularly focussed on reducing inequalities, from all levels of Government.

“Scotland has led the field with strong and welcome initiatives such as minimum unit pricing on alcohol and the smoking ban, but we cannot rest on our laurels - this is not enough to boost the health of the nation or reduce the persistent, stubborn and scandalous inequalities that persist. There is still a massive distance to travel before we really begin to make serious inroads towards cutting the health inequality gap.

“Reducing health inequalities will need concerted action across many areas like low pay, poor educational outcomes and inadequate housing. These statistics must prompt continued and urgent action on all these areas and across all parts of Government.”

Professor Derek Bell OBE, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “This report reaffirms what we have known since the Black Report on health inequalities in the early 1980s; that life expectancy - particularly healthy life expectancy - is lower in deprived areas and is multifactorial.

“It is significant that progress on life expectancy has stalled in recent years, and the reasons for this will be complex. We believe that there are measures which can be taken now to improve public health across Scotland, particularly in our poorest communities.

“Two of the biggest health issues that Scotland faces are obesity and diabetes. It is estimated that around 2 out of 3 adults in Scotland are clinically obese.

“Price promotions on foods that are high fat, sugar and salt are more likely to be attractive to people with less to spend on their weekly grocery shop. The College therefore support controls on price promotions of high fat, sugar and salt foods, and we back the promotion of healthier food. We also support the reduction of food portion and pack sizes, as well as retaining and strengthening the sugary drinks tax.

“But healthy life style is important too, and we must ensure that we are a healthy and active nation through improved diet and exercise.

“We are encouraged that the Scottish Government has already taken measures to improve public health; for example minimum unit pricing and the smoking ban in public places. But there is certainly more that can be done. The prevention of obesity and diabetes must be a priority for the Scottish Government where possible.

“At a local level, Integration Joint Boards and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships can have a key role in tackling public health in communities, and we have already seen success in some areas.”

“Over the long term, life expectancy in Scotland has increased but has stalled recently.

“We’re focused on addressing the underlying causes that drive health inequalities, which has income inequality at its heart. Our bold package of measures to help tackle key issues such as smoking, obesity, inactivity, and alcohol misuse will support people to live longer healthier lives. To do this, we are continuing to invest in measures such as affordable housing, free prescriptions, free personal care and providing free school meals.

“The launch of Public Health Scotland next year will play an important role in support of our public health priorities.”