Scottish men facing more ill health in old age

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Scottish men may be living longer but they will spend greater periods of their old age living in ill-health compared to the rest of the UK, a new report has warned.

The findings, from the Office for National Statistics, show that men in Scotland will spend around 1.5 extra years living in ill-health compared to the UK as a whole.

Scotland was also found to be the only country in the UK where a significant gender difference was discovered, with women estimated to live 2.5 more years free from disability compared to men.

The figures are particularly striking given that men in Scotland had one of the lowest disability-free life expectancies in the UK, whilst Scottish women had one of the highest.

Brian Sloan, the Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said that men were often left behind when it came to the representation of older people in our society and argued that this could be having an adverse effect on their health.

“It is worrying to see that men’s healthy life expectancy has not increased by as much as life expectancy over the last decade,” Mr Sloan said. “We’ve long seen that men are underrepresented in many of the older people’s groups we support across Scotland, which is why we are throwing our weight behind initiatives such as Walking Football and Men’s Sheds.

“These projects are proving very successful at bringing men together and helping to address the huge issue we have in Scotland of loneliness in later life, which research has now demonstrated has a very negative impact on health.”

The report showed that over a ten year period, the change in health status had been very different for men and women in Scotland. Whilst figures indicated an absolute improvement in health over the decade for females, the opposite could be said to be true for males.

Figures showed that men were expected to live 1.1 more years in health described as ‘Not Good’ than those born ten years earlier and also live less of their life as a proportion in ‘Good’ health. The improvement in general health for females and worsening for males saw a widening in the gender gap over the period.

The ONS report was designed to monitor whether the ‘extra’ years gained in life expectancy through medical advancements are being matched in living standards leading to ‘Good’ health, “free from a limiting illness or disability”.

However, it found that Scotland matched up poorly to the health of the UK as a whole, with men at age 65 in Scotland predicted to live just 54.7% of their remaining life expectancy in ‘Good’ health, compared to 59.3% for the UK overall.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said that that whilst they will continue to work to improve the health of the nation overall, their hands had been tied by the UK government’s domestic policy.

They said: “Overall, health in Scotland is improving, and people are living longer, healthier lives. Reducing the health gap between people in Scotland’s most deprived and affluent communities is one of our greatest challenges.

“At its root, this is an issue of income inequality – we need a shift in emphasis from dealing with the consequences to tackling the underlying causes, such as ending poverty, fair wages, supporting families and improving our physical and social environments.

“In the face of the UK Government’s welfare cuts, we are working with all of our partners to tackle poverty and inequality and help those who want to work to get into work. We are also continuing to take decisive action to address alcohol consumption, reduce smoking rates, encourage active living, healthy eating, and promote positive mental health.”

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