Health inequalities: introduction

Health inequalities is an extremely complex issue. Extensive research has shown that people who are most affected by societal inequalities related to factors such as low income, gender, social position, ethnic origin, geography, age and disability are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health than the general population.

The relationship between deprivation and a range of diverse health outcomes has been much documented; however, other examples of risks to health resulting from societal inequalities might also include: poor access to good quality food or housing through socio-economic inequality; sexual abuse or exposure to anti-social behaviour through gender inequality; or racist assaults or poorer access to services through ethnic inequality.

A major cause for concern is that inequalities in health status are increasing within Scotland (as seen, for example, in significantly greater increases in life expectancy in more affluent parts of Scotland compared to the least affluent). Thus, the narrowing of this gap is now one of the main aims of the health improvement challenge in Scotland.

Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in June 2014.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end June 2015.