A new report has found 45% of Scotland’s wealth is held by 10% of households and incomes have experienced “unprecedented stagnation” since 2010 which has had a negative impact on health inequalities.
Research by the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde showed that living standards in Scotland have stalled dramatically since 2010 and have affected the health of the population as a result.
Published on Monday, the Health Inequalities in Scotland report explores trends in Scotland since 1999 in the key factors that influence health.
A tenth of households has no or negative wealth. Wealth can influence health through the way it affects financial and housing security, the report argues.
Inequalities in earnings, income, wealth and education remain relatively high in Scotland compared to the past and to other comparable European countries.
It argues that factors including financial security, the quality of housing and the local environment, education, and employment, can affect health in many ways.
Living in damp or overcrowded accommodation can affect health directly, while financial security can affect mental wellbeing, and influence people’s ability to engage in healthy behaviours.
Typical weekly earnings in Scotland were found to be around £80 per week below what they would have been had long-running trends before 2010 continued.
The report is part of a programme to better understand health inequalities in Scotland and the wider determinants of health.
David Eiser, deputy director at Fraser of Allander Institute and author of the report, said: “Scotland’s economy, like the UK’s, has been characterised by high levels of inequality for many decades. Since 2010, the economy has also been characterised by stagnating earnings growth and flatlining living standards.
“The health of the population, and health inequalities within the population, are shaped by social and economic circumstances.
“The similarities between Scotland’s economic and health trends are striking.
“Stagnation of improvement in incomes and living standards has coincided with a slowing of improvement on some health outcomes, including life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, and an increasing prevalence of mental health issues.
“The links between the economy and health are complex and work both ways.
“We’ve seen this in the context of Covid (where socio-economic circumstances influenced vulnerability to the disease), and the current cost-of-living crisis – which has the potential to affect health in a number of ways.
The work has been funded by the Health Foundation working with Scottish research partners and an expert advisory group.
David Finch, assistant director at the Health Foundation, said: “Today’s report represents a comprehensive attempt to map and assess trends in a wide range of the socioeconomic determinants of health in Scotland including incomes and poverty, wealth and debt, employment and education, housing and more.
“Across these areas the message is clear. Inequalities are high, and progress has slowed. Addressing socioeconomic inequalities and improving living standards will be key to making meaningful progress towards improving the health of Scotland.”