Scottish people are living longer

Eric Baijal
Eric Baijal

THE Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council has pinpointed a higher standard of living, eradication of disease and better treatment as the main reasons why Scots are now living longer.

According to figures released by the Scottish Government last week, the number of Scottish centenarians has been steadily rising over the past decade, from 570 in 2002 to 820 in 2010, an increase of 44 per cent.

Estimates for 2010 also show rise in the number of people aged 90 to 99, partly because the number of births during the year 1920 was at its highest level since the introduction of national registration in 1855. This was the large birth cohort after the First World War.

A century ago, centenarians in Scotland were very unusual, but this changed at the beginning of the 21st century when estimates showed there were over 500 people aged 100 years old and over in Scotland. And the number of centenarians has been increasing ever since..

The overwhelming majority of centenarians are women, eight out of ten to be precise.

In 2010, women accounted for 690 of Scotland’s centenarians (84 per cent) while 130 men had reached the milestone. Although the male population aged 90 to 99 increased substantially from 2009 to 2010, almost three quarters of people in their 90s are women (73 per cent).

Relative to the rest of the population, the number of centenarians has increased since 2002, especially over the last few years, but there are still less than two centenarians for every 10,000 people (1.6 per 10,000).

The figures are estimates, because there is no register of centenarians, therefore it is not possible to identify the oldest person in Scotland is.

National Records of Scotland use ‘age at death’ data to build up a profile of the number of elderly people in Scotland. For example, if someone died in 2006 aged 105, it would mean that he/she was alive and aged 104 in 2005 and 103 in 2004 etc. By collating ‘age at death’ data for a series of years, it becomes possible to make a good estimate of the number of people of a given age alive in any particular year.

The Department of Work and Pensions told ‘The Berwickshire News’ that they only dealt with UK-wide figures and as a result weren’t able to give a picture for the Borders specifically.

But Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Borders and Scottish Borders, Dcotor Eric Baijal, said that on the whole people in the Borders are enjoying a better quality of life, adding that the key to a longer life is good nutrition and exercise.

He commented: “The increase in the number of centenarians should be welcomed as a very positive sign of the improving health and wellbeing of the Scottish population. It reflects an increasing life expectancy in general amongst more affluent people.

“The divide between these more affluent people and disadvantaged communities reflects continuing health inequalities in Scotland, which we continue to tackle.

“Higher standards of living have contributed to this increase such as improvements in education, housing, and sanitation. Public Health initiatives to improve working conditions, discourage smoking, improve child health along with the eradication of diseases like small pox or reductions in others such as measles and TB through vaccination programmes for infectious disease and cancer screening programs have played an important role in giving people a better chance of living longer.

“Better treatment for previously refractory conditions such as some forms of cancer has helped. In short, improvements in public health have been an important factor.”

“If you want to live a long and healthy life, the most important things are a good diet and plenty of exercise.”