Growth in life expectancy in Scotland has stalled and health inequalities have widened, according to new reports.
Austerity and severe flu outbreaks have been blamed for the “worrying” statistics in the NHS Health Scotland papers.
The country has seen the slowest life expectancy increase since at least the late 1970s, while death rates have begun to rise for people living in the poorest areas.
Life expectancy had shown steady progress in Scotland since the Second World War.
Dr Gerry McCartney, head of the public health observatory at NHS Health Scotland, said: “What we see here is a worrying trend. Life expectancy not only gives an indication of how long people are likely to live, but also serves as a ‘warning light’ for the public’s health.
“In addition, the fact that socioeconomic position now plays a bigger role in how long you live than it did before is cause for concern.
“There are likely to be a number of factors at play. The strongest candidates are recent policies that address recent economic setbacks which have reduced spending on benefits, squeezed incomes and trapped people in poverty – these may all have contributed.
“Cuts to council budgets and pressures on key local services, such as social care, could also have had an impact.
“There have been some severe flu outbreaks in recent years which will have increased demands on services too.
“All of these factors – and more – are likely to be important in explaining the recent trends.
“Whilst there is further work to do to clarify the causes, we know enough to recommend action now.”
The trends mean it would take nearly 21 years to add a year to a woman’s life expectancy, and 11.5 years to add a year to a man’s.
Over the previous 20 years – 1992 to 2011 – gains were much faster, taking just five-and-a-half to add a year to a woman’s life expectancy and four years for a man.
Scotland has the lowest life expectancy in the UK and under current rates will not catch up with England’s 2016 level until 2058 for women and 2045 for men.