People with lung conditions in Scotland are twice as likely to need emergency hospital treatment if they live in poverty, research suggests.
The figure, calculated using hospital admission data released by NHS Scotland, was described as “deeply worrying” by leading lung health charity Asthma and Lung UK Scotland, which campaigns for cleaner air and better diagnosis and treatment of respiratory conditions.
The charity says cutbacks in every area of life are affecting people’s ability to manage their lung conditions, increasing the likelihood of sufferers developing life-threatening symptoms and emergency hospital admissions.
It has published its own report based on a survey of more than 1,359 people with lung conditions which found some of the lowest earners questioned were unable to afford food or rent and struggled to book medical appointments.
The survey also found one in five of the lowest earners questioned struggled with breathlessness every day and seven out of ten felt their conditions had got worse over the last year.
It also found people on lower incomes were far more likely to have quit their jobs due to breathlessness over the last 12 months than those with higher incomes.
The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to push on with its national plan for improving the lives of people living with lung conditions and provide tailored financial support for those on low incomes to ensure they can pay for basic necessities such as food and rent.
Respiratory disease is thought to be one of the top three killers in Scotland, with one in five people believed to be diagnosed with a lung condition at some point in their lives.
Joseph Carter, head of Asthma and Lung UK Scotland, said: “It is truly unacceptable that people in the most deprived areas of Scotland are struggling to access the support they need, and they are more likely to end up in A&E fighting for breath.
“The cost of living crisis is further deepening the health disparities, as is the slow pace of the implementation of the Scottish Government’s flagship lung care strategy, the Respiratory Care Action Plan.
“One in five Scots will develop a lung condition in their lifetime and for them, struggling to breathe can be a life-changing and debilitating condition.
“We are urging lung health to be made a priority and for health inequalities and poverty to be tackled head on.”
Vivienne Gaynor, a volunteer for the charity from Edinburgh who has COPD herself, highlighted how people with specific dietary requirements as well as lung conditions are facing even harder times.
The 61-year-old said: “The cost of living crisis is having a detrimental effect on my health because even though food prices are rising, I still have to eat a well-rounded healthy diet.
“As well as COPD I am gluten intolerant, and this makes life harder.”
She added: “Because of my lung condition, I am finding that I need the car more and more to get around, so the rising petrol prices and the costs of running a car are affecting me.
“But being used to struggling, I manage, because I have to.
“I also feel that people with COPD are overlooked, because lung health isn’t up on the agenda and sometimes I feel that we are forgotten.”
The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.