DEATH rates are almost twice as high in the most deprived areas of Scotland when compared to the least deprived, according to the latest figures.

A new report from National Records of Scotland (NRS) found that the gap is even wider between these areas for some specific causes of deprivation, including drug misuse deaths.

The Scotland’s Population report for 2022 considers long-term life expectancy trends in the country.

The head of demographic statistics at NRS, Julie Ramsay, said: “2022 saw the largest year-on-year decrease in drug misuse deaths on record but it was still 3.7 times as high as it was in 2000.

“People in the most deprived areas were almost 16 times as likely to die from drug misuse as those in the least deprived.”

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Over the past 40 years overall life expectancy in Scotland has improved, with more people living longer lives.

However, the life expectancy of Scots remains lower than the rest of the UK and in recent years has started to reverse.

The NRS noted that the recent fall in life expectancy was mainly due to Covid-19.

Over the last decade the high level of drug-related deaths, the increase in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s and a slowdown in the decrease in coronary heart disease deaths contributed to the stall in life expectancy improvements.

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The report also shows that there are now more people aged 65 and over than people under 15.

This trend is mainly driven by the post-war baby boom generation getting older.

People living longer and fertility in Scotland falling have also contributed to Scotland’s ageing population.

Indeed, fertility is now at the lowest recorded level and is one of the lowest in Europe.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “These figures should be a source of shame for the SNP government.

“They are full of warm words on supporting our most deprived areas, but the reality is a record of overwhelming failure.

“My thoughts are with all those families across Scotland who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

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“On the SNP’s watch, it is clearer than ever that your life chances are determined by where you grow up, which should never be the case.”

He said the gap in drug death rates is “utterly disgraceful” and pushed his party’s Right to Recovery Bill, which would enshrine in law the right for people to require drug treatment to access it.

Drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham said: “My thoughts and condolences are with all those who have lost a loved one.

“Scotland’s communities experience health, quality of life and even life expectancy differently across our society.

“We will continue to work with our partners, including Public Health Scotland and National Records of Scotland, to understand what is needed at a national and regional level to support local, preventative action to drive improvements in population health and to tackle inequalities.”

She said the Scottish Government is doing “everything within our powers to tackle drugs deaths”, is developing a dementia strategy delivery plan and is taking action to minimise preventable heart disease.