by Darren Gibson
NORTH Ayrshire has the worst average healthy life expectancies for females in the country, new figures have revealed.
Healthy life expectancy is described by the UK Government as ‘the average number of years that an individual is expected to live in a state of self-assess good or very good health, based on current mortality rates and prevalence of good or very good health’.
Statistics released by National Records of Scotland (NRS) have shown that healthy life expectancy has fallen across Scotland on average, with the average healthy life expectancy at birth for males being 61.7 years and 61.9 for females.
In North Ayrshire, the figures are worse – with the average healthy life expectancy for males being 58.5 years, making it the 5th worst council area in the country for males, and 56.3 years for females – the worst in the country.
The gap between the highest average healthy life expectancy for females in the Orkney Islands – 75.1 years, and North Ayrshire is 18.8 years, showing a significant gap in between the most and least deprived areas of the country.
Glasgow was the worst place to be for males – with healthy life expectancy at 54.6 years.
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Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, the national charity for older people, said: “These figures are really disappointing and come on the back of news last year that overall life expectancy has stalled.
“Of course, we would have hoped to see Healthy Life Expectancy in Scotland increasing but we must face the facts and redouble efforts to address this.
“The gap between people in the most and least deprived areas is staggeringly high and shows that much more needs to be done to reduce poverty and increase people’s quality of life.
“Preventing ill health in the first instance clearly needs more of a focus and investment especially as these figures don’t take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns which will almost certainly exacerbate this issue in the next few years.
“It’s so important for people in the short term, but also in the long term as Scotland’s rapidly ageing population, who will on average be spending a greater proportion of their life in poor health, will then likely need more and more support from the NHS and social care.
“We want to see Scotland as the best place to grow older and increasing Healthy Life Expectancy is part of this.”
Julie Ramsay, head of Vital Events Statistics at NRS, said: “Over the last decade healthy life expectancy has increased for males and decreased for females.
“However, both males and females experienced a decrease in healthy life expectancy over the latest year.
“The decrease in healthy life expectancy coincides with a stalling of growth in life expectancy in recent years and has resulted in a lower proportion of life being spent in good health with 79.9 per cent for males and 76.3 per cent for females.”
A North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: “Partners across North Ayrshire are working together to address inequalities in North Ayrshire that could lead to poorer health, with a number of prevention and early intervention initiatives and actions in place.
“There are a wide range of factors which must be taken into account when considering how the general health of a population can be improved, from socio-economic factors and lifestyle, through to access to services and good quality housing.
“North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership is currently working on a one-year Strategic Plan focusing on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has added challenges for so many individuals in our communities.
“An engagement campaign is already under way for a longer-term plan that will be implemented the following year. The aim of this is to gather opinions from the public about what is important to them in terms of their health and well-being, which will allow us to identify any potential gaps that exist in our response and areas for additional partnership working in order to prioritise our response in the coming years.”