Intended for healthcare professionals


Deprivation and mortality in Scotland, 1981 and 1991

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 03 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1465
  1. Philip McLoone, research fellowa,
  2. F A Boddy, directora
  1. a Public Health Research Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ
  1. Correspondence to: Mr McLoone.
  • Accepted 11 November 1994


Objective: To compare the mortality experience of Scottish postcode sectors characterised by socioeconomic census variables (Carstairs scores) in 1980-2 and 1990-2.

Methods: Variables derived from the 1981 and 1991 censuses were combined according to the method devised by Carstairs and Morris*RF 6* to obtain Carstairs scores for 1010 postcode sectors in Scotland in 1981 and 1001 sectors in 1991. For most analyses, these scores were grouped into seven deprivation categories ranging from affluent (category 1) to deprived (category 7) localities.

Main outcome measures: Death rates and standardised mortality ratios for localities according to deprivation category.

Results: Postcode sectors in Scotland that were categorised as deprived in 1981 were relatively more deprived at the time of the 1991 census; the mortality experience of deprived localities relative to either Scotland or affluent neighbourhoods worsened over this period, with a 162% difference between the most affluent and most deprived categories in 1991-2. Although the age and sex standardised mortality for ages 0-64 in Scotland declined by 22% during the 1980s, the reduction in the deprived categories was only about half that of the affluent groups. Increases in the death rate for men (29%) and women (11%) aged 20-29 in the deprived groups were largely attributable to an increase in the rates of suicide. Death rates from ischaemic heart disease and carcinoma of the lung and bronchus at ages 40-69 were lower in all deprivation categories in 1990-2, but the reduction was greater in more affluent areas; the difference in rates for these conditions between affluent and deprived groups therefore increased over the decade. The observed worsening of the standardised mortality ratio for Glasgow relative to Scotland could be explained on the basis of these mortality differentials and the concentration of deprived postcode sectors in Glasgow.

Conclusions: Differences in mortality experience linked to relative poverty increased in the 10 years between 1981 and 1991 censuses. Although mortality for Scotland as a whole is improving, the picture is one of an increasing distinction between the experience of the majority and that of a substantial minority of the population.


    • Accepted 11 November 1994
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