Mapping life expectancy in Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies

By Helena Tunstall, Elizabeth Richardson & Jamie Pearce

New life expectancy at birth figures for 2011-2013 for Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies have just been released by National Records of Scotland (NRS). We’ve mapped and graphed these data to illustrate the latest geographical patterns of mortality in Scotland. Parliamentary constituencies contain roughly equal populations and split urban centres so are useful for comparison of life expectancy both within cities and between urban and rural areas. The life expectancy figures indicate the average number of years a baby born in 2011-2013 would live if he/she was subject to the same 2011-2013 death rates (age- and sex-specific) throughout his/her lifetime.

In Scotland life expectancy has risen for both men and women over the last ten years but persistent patterns of inequalities remain (see maps below). For women there is a 5.9 year gap between constituencies with the lowest and highest life expectancies, and for men the gap is 8.6 years. The socio-economic differences which are central to the geography of mortality in Scotland underlie the pattern of lower life expectancy in the Western constituencies compared to Eastern ones and in urban areas compared to rural ones.

Male life expectancy (click to enlarge):

(a) Scotland                                                                  (b) Scotland’s ‘Central Belt’








Female life expectancy (click to enlarge):

(a) Scotland                                                                  (b) Scotland’s ‘Central Belt’










Not all urban areas have lower life expectancy however (see graph below).  For both men and women the constituency with the second highest life expectancy (just behind East Lothian), is the wealthy Edinburgh Western.  Glasgow, the poorest city in Scotland as expected continues to contain the greatest concentration of high mortality, having 8 of the 10 constituencies with the lowest life expectancy among men and 5 out of 10 among women.

In constituencies with the lowest life expectancy there is a greater gap between men and women than in the areas with higher life expectancy (see graph). In the constituency with the lowest life expectancy for men at birth, Glasgow Provan, male life expectancy at 72.1 years is 6.1 years shorter than for women (78.2 years).  In contrast, in East Lothian men have the longest life expectancy – 80.7 years – while women’s life expectancy is only 3.4 years longer at 84.1 years. While many of the largest life expectancy gaps between men and women are found in Glasgow this is not a specific ‘Glasgow Effect’, reflecting the particular health problems of this city, but is a broader effect of socio-economic deprivation. In the most deprived areas of Scotland life expectancy is more reduced compared to the national average among men than women.  This deprivation effect is found in cities and rural areas across Scotland.

In sum, mapping this interesting and important dataset reiterates that stark inequalities in health remain across Parliamentary constituencies in Scotland. Reducing health inequalities in Scotland requires action by the Scottish and Westminster Governments across all the social determinants of health.

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