English title: What can ecological data tell us about reasons for divergence in health status between West Central Scotland and other regions of post-industrial Europe?

Author(s): Martin Taulbut - David Walsh - Sophie Parcell - Anja Hartmann - Gilles Poirier - Dana Strniskova - Gordon Daniels - Phil Hanlon -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2013

Abstract

Background: The link between the effects of de-industrialization (unemployment, poverty) and population health is well understood. Post-industrial decline has, therefore, been cited as an underlying cause of high mortality in Scotland's most de-industrialized region. However, previous research showed other comparably de-industrialized regions in Europe to have better and faster improving health (with, in many cases, a widening gap evident from the early to mid-1980s). Objectives: To explore whether ecological data can provide insights into reasons behind the poorer, and more slowly improving, health status of West Central Scotland (WCS) compared with other European regions that have experienced similar histories of post-industrial decline. Specifically, this study asked: (1) could WCS's poorer health status be explained purely in terms of socio-economic factors (poverty, deprivation etc.)? and (2) could comparisons with other health determinant information identify important differences between WCS and other regions? These aims were explored alongside other research examining the historical, economic and political context in WCS compared with other de-industrialized regions. Study design and methods: A range of ecological data, derived from surveys and routine administrative sources, were collected and analysed for WCS and 11 other post-industrial regions. Analyses were underpinned by the collection and analysis of more detailed data for four particular regions of interest. In addition, the project drew on accompanying literature-based research, analysing important contextual factors in de-industrialized regions, including histories of economic and welfare policies, and national and regional responses to de-industrialization. Results: The poorer health status of WCS cannot be explained in terms of absolute measures of poverty and deprivation. However, compared with other post-industrial regions in Mainland Europe, the region is distinguished by having wider income inequalities and associated social characteristics (e.g. more single adults, lone parent households, higher rates of teenage pregnancy). Some of these distinguishing features are shared by other UK post-industrial regions which experienced the same economic history as WCS. Conclusion: From the collection of data and supporting analyses of important contextual factors, one can argue that poor health in WCS can be attributed to three layers of causation: the effects of de-industrialization (which have impacted on health in all post-industrial regions); the impact of ‘neoliberal’ UK economic policies, resulting in wider inequalities in WCS and the other UK regions; and an as-yet-unexplained (but under investigation) set of factors that cause WCS to experience worse health outcomes than similar regions within the UK.

Volume: 127

Issue: 2

From page no: 153

To page no: 163

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1016/J.PUHE.2012.11.007

Journal: Public Health