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Scottish life expectancy improvements stall

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Although the population is aging, life expectancy is no longer showing clear progress

Life expectancy improvements have stalled, according to a report from the National Records of Scotland.

It said the change came after three decades in which Scottish residents have been living longer.

The Annual Review of Demographic Trends also points out that Scotland’s fertility rate is the lowest in the UK.

Recent increases in population, although slowing for the second year running, have been driven by migration.

The health factors said to be contributing to life expectancy levelling off include;

  • slower improvements in reducing deaths from heart disease
  • and an increase in drug-related deaths.

Registrar General for Scotland Paul Lowe said: “This year’s review shows that there have been changes in Scotland’s life expectancy and mortality trends.

“Life expectancy in Scotland has been increasing over the long term, but recent estimates indicate that it has stopped improving.

“The largest causes of the stall in life expectancy are the slowing of improvements seen in the reduction of deaths from heart disease and increases in drug related deaths.”

Record population

Mr Lowe said the overall population continued to increase.

He explained: “For the 18th consecutive year, Scotland’s population has increased and now stands at a record high of 5.44 million.

“Migration continues to be the main driver of Scotland’s population growth, with more people coming to Scotland than leaving.

“However, we have seen our population growth slowing over the past two years. This is due to the combined effect of a fall in net migration, fewer births and more deaths.”

The report identified six key findings:

  • Scotland’s population continues to increase and is at its highest ever at 5.44 million. Migration is the main driver of Scotland’s population growth. However, the rate of population growth has slowed for the second year running.
  • Population change varies across Scotland. Over the latest year to mid-2018, the population increased in 18 council areas of Scotland while 14 council areas (mostly rural, island and in the west of Scotland) decreased in population – three more than in the previous year.
  • Life expectancy in Scotland has increased over the past three decades, but has stalled in recent years. The slowing in improvement to life expectancy can be seen across all UK countries.
  • Deprivation strongly affects life expectancy and has an even greater effect on healthy life expectancy.
  • Scotland’s total fertility rate is the lowest in the UK and falling at a faster rate than all other UK countries.
  • The stillbirth rate has fallen to its lowest ever level in 2018 and the infant death rate equalled its lowest ever level.

Within the overall numbers, Scotland’s population continues to age.

Between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of the population over the age of 65 increased from 16% to 19%.

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