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      Has Scotland always been the ‘sick man’ of Europe? An observational study from 1855 to 2006

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          Abstract

          Background: Scotland has been dubbed ‘the sick man of Europe’ on account of its higher mortality rates compared with other western European countries. It is not clear the length of time for which Scotland has had higher mortality rates. The root causes of the higher mortality in Scotland remain elusive. Methods: Life expectancy data from the Human Mortality Database were tabulated and graphed for a selection of wealthy, mainly European countries from around 1850 onwards. Results: Scotland had a life expectancy in the mid-range of countries included in the Human Mortality Database from the mid-19th century until around 1950. After 1950, Scottish life expectancy improved at a slower rate than in comparably wealthy nations before further faltering during the last 30 years. Scottish life expectancy now lies between that of western European and eastern European nations. The USA also displays a marked faltering in its life expectancy trend after 1981. There is an inverse association between life expectancy and the Index of Economic Freedom such that greater neoliberalism is associated with a smaller increase, or a decrease, in life expectancy. Conclusion: Life expectancy in Scotland has only been relatively low since around 1950. From 1980, life expectancy in Scotland, the USA and, to a greater extent, the former USSR displays a further relative faltering. It has been suggested that Scotland suffered disproportionately from the adoption of neoliberalism across the nations of the UK, and the evidence here both supports this suggestion and highlights other countries which may have suffered similarly.

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          Most cited references 32

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          Huge variation in Russian mortality rates 1984-94: artefact, alcohol, or what?

          According to published data, between 1984 and 1994 mortality rates in Russia initially underwent a rapid decline followed by an even steeper increase. In 1994, male life expectancy at birth was 57.6 years, having fallen by 6.2 years since 1990. There has been concern that such striking fluctuations in mortality are an artefact, although, among other factors, alcohol consumption has been implicated. We analysed the age-specific and cause-specific patterns of mortality decrease and increase by use of data from a newly reconstructed mortality series for Russia so that we could examine the plausibility of various explanations for the mortality trends. All major causes of death, with the exception of neoplasms, showed declines in mortality between 1984 and 1987 and increases between 1987 and 1994. In relative terms, these tended to be largest for the age-group 40-50 years; surprisingly, they were of the same magnitude among women and men. The largest declines and subsequent increases in proportional terms were observed for alcohol-related deaths and accidents and violence. However, pronounced effects were also seen for deaths from infections, circulatory disease, and respiratory disease. No substantial variations were seen for neoplasms. The stability of mortality from neoplasms in contrast to other causes over the period 1984-94 largely precludes the possibility that the changes in life expectancy are mainly an artefact, particularly one due to underestimation of the population. Although factors such as nutrition and health services may be involved, the evidence is that substantial changes in alcohol consumption over the period could plausibly explain the main features of the mortality fluctuations observed. These results provide a major challenge to public health in Russia and to our understanding of the determinants of alcohol consumption and its role in explaining mortality patterns within and between many other countries.
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            Politics and health outcomes.

            The aim of this study was to examine the complex interactions between political traditions, policies, and public health outcomes, and to find out whether different political traditions have been associated with systematic patterns in population health over time. We analysed a number of political, economic, social, and health variables over a 50-year period, in a set of wealthy countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Our findings support the hypothesis that the political ideologies of governing parties affect some indicators of population health. Our analysis makes an empirical link between politics and policy, by showing that political parties with egalitarian ideologies tend to implement redistributive policies. An important finding of our research is that policies aimed at reducing social inequalities, such as welfare state and labour market policies, do seem to have a salutary effect on the selected health indicators, infant mortality and life expectancy at birth.
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              The Coalition Programme: A New Vision for Britain or Politics as Usual?

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Eur J Public Health
                Eur J Public Health
                eurpub
                eurpub
                The European Journal of Public Health
                Oxford University Press
                1101-1262
                1464-360X
                December 2012
                22 October 2011
                22 October 2011
                : 22
                : 6
                : 756-760
                Affiliations
                1 Public Health Science Directorate, NHS Health Scotland, Glasgow, UK
                2 Glasgow Centre for Population Health, Glasgow, UK
                3 School of Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Gerry McCartney, Head of Public Health Observatory, NHS Health Scotland, Elphinstone House, 65 West Regent Street, Glasgow G2 2AF, UK, Tel: +141 354 2928, Fax: +141 354 2901, e-mail: gmccartney@ 123456nhs.net
                Article
                ckr136
                10.1093/eurpub/ckr136
                3505444
                22021374
                © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Pages: 5
                Categories
                Health Inequalities
                Editor's Choice

                Public health

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