A new report has laid bare the gulf in life expectancy between Dundee and some of Scotland’s more affluent areas.
Published yesterday, the new Life Expectancy in Scotland Report 2017-2019 from National Records of Scotland found men in Dundee to have the second lowest life expectancy in the country at 74 years, behind only Glasgow.
Women in the city have the third lowest life expectancy at 79 years, behind Glasgow and Inverclyde.
The national life expectancy is much higher, sitting at 77.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women, however, this is still the lowest in western Europe.
The report also reveals the gap between the most and least deprived people’s life expectancy in Scotland is 13.3 years for men and 10 years for women
Councillor Ken Lynn, vice-chairman of the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, said steps are being taken to address issues such as smoking, obesity and drug and alcohol abuse, which were “leading to the premature death of the city’s citizens”.
He said: “The statistics in the report are of great concern.
“We have a high level of areas of deprivation in comparison to Scotland as a whole and there is an undisputed link between poverty and poor health leading to a shorter lifespan.
“If you live in a deprived area you are likely to have a considerably shorter lifespan than those in more affluent areas – and the report shows East Dunbartonshire, with the relatively wealthy suburbs of Milngavie and Bearsden having the longest, yet Glasgow, its immediate neighbour and significantly poorer, has the shortest.”
He continued: “Dundee has the second lowest life expectancy.
“The factors which contribute to that sad statistic are higher levels of drug and alcohol use, smoking, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and diet amongst others and people in poorer areas are more likely to contract long-term diseases at a younger age.
“It is imperative that we tackle the issues which lead to this and there is a strong public health focus, both here in Dundee and nationally on taking measures to counteract them.
“We are taking steps to tackle smoking, obesity, and drug and alcohol use and in an effort to improve the health of our young people, free school meals are provided to all children in primary one to three.
“There are, of course, other measures which we are taking which aim to lift people out of poverty by striving to create more and better job opportunities and the Scottish Government has introduced a new Scottish child payment which will begin to make payments in February of next year, in an attempt to lift those on low incomes out of the poverty which, to be frank, is leading to the premature deaths of our citizens.”
Andrew Kirk, who sits on the Dundee Fairness Commission and is a community commissioner at The Maxwell Centre, said supporting people and giving people the right information could help improve life expectancy in the city.
He said: “It is a shock to hear that.
“Drugs and addiction problems will be a factor in Dundee being the second lowest in Scotland.
“We work in the Hilltown which is one of the most deprived areas in Dundee and we are probably the main referral point for the food bank and referrals are going up again and people are having to go on universal credit because they have had to leave their jobs.
“There is a lot of financial hardship at the moment.
“Only today an 80-year-old pensioner came to us for help because he had fallen through the system and didn’t know what to do.
“He got a food parcel, but that shouldn’t be happening, he should have been helped before he had to come to us.
“People with disabilities, people who are housebound, people who have fallen ill and are to able to get out of the house, the information is not getting out to these people.
“They need to get that information without having to phone around here, there and everywhere looking for help.”
He added: “One of the issues I hate the most at the moment, and it is happening now, is people are being sanctioned by the DWP because there’s not anywhere for them to go and do their job search.
“A lot of older people who are looking for a job are too afraid of technology or don’t have a smartphone to do their job searches on, and now we are in a horrible situation where people are being sanctioned for that.”
Meanwhile NHS Tayside has vowed to do all it can to support people with their health in Dundee.
A spokeswoman for the health board said: “Across Tayside, in those areas where there is higher deprivation, people have a much higher chance of poorer health.
“These health inequalities caused by poverty can have an overwhelming effect on people’s lives causing constant stress, long-term physical ill health, poor mental health and even earlier death for some people living in our poorest communities.
“In response to this, NHS Tayside is strengthening its approach to community planning with partners in each local authority area and putting considerable effort into tackling health inequalities by taking a preventative approach that reduces the risk of disease by supporting people to improve their health and wellbeing.
“In Dundee and Perth and Kinross, fairness commissions have been established to review and make recommendations on inequalities and action plans have been developed to address the recommendations.
“NHS Tayside has developed a social prescribing approach, which is a way of linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community.
“It provides GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and wellbeing.
“This will ensure that people from the most disadvantaged groups can gain access to health improving activities and resources, whilst reducing over-reliance and dependence on medicine.
“Social prescribing can include support with nutrition and healthy eating, physical exercise, reducing alcohol intake and giving up smoking.”
Overall in NHS Tayside, the life expectancy is 77 for males and 82 for females.
In the rest of Tayside, life expectancy in Angus sits at 77 for men and 82 for women, and in Perth and Kinross it is 79 for men and 84 for women, which is the third-highest life expectancy on the Scottish mainland.