Page last updated at 23:12 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 00:12 UK

Heart death risk for poorer Scots

Defibrillator being used
The authors said the disparity was linked to poor diet and smoking

Young Scots from deprived backgrounds are six times more likely to die from heart disease than affluent people in the same age group, research suggests.

The Liverpool research looked at death rates from heart disease for those aged between 35 and 44 from 1986 to 2006.

It found that the disparity diminished with age but only disappeared for people who are 85 or over.

The authors said the differences were linked to unhealthy social environments, smoking and poor diet.

"These inequalities are persisting in spite of the widespread and constant health promotion and health prevention initiatives, which suggests substantial and continuing barriers to healthy changes," the report said.

These inequalities are persisting in spite of the widespread and constant health promotion and health prevention initiatives
Liverpool University research

The research team, led by Professor Simon Capewell, a clinical epidemiologist from the University of Liverpool, maintained that these factors were more common in individuals from deprived backgrounds and that this study revealed major social inequalities in Scotland.

The research, published by the British Medical Journal, also said the number of people dying from heart disease in Scotland had halved in the last two decades but the country still has some of the highest deaths in Europe and globally.

It also said that while the overall number of deaths from heart disease in Scotland was decreasing, this decline was slowing down in young adults, especially those from deprived groups.

'Continuing barriers'

The report concluded: "These mortality changes reflect social gradients in unhealthy behaviour, lifestyle and circumstances resulting in poor diet and high tobacco consumption leading to unfavourable levels of major coronary heart disease risk factors.

"These inequalities are persisting in spite of the widespread and constant health promotion and health prevention initiatives, which suggests substantial and continuing barriers to healthy changes."

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Alastair Leyland, from the Medical Research Council in Glasgow, said it was extremely worrying that the slowing of improvements at younger ages was confined to the most deprived groups and asked why those young Scots were "not sharing in the benefits seen by others?"

He argued that as health promotion programmes had seen limited success, perhaps it was time "to tackle the social inequalities themselves - unequal distribution of power, money, resources and life chances."



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