ScotPHO reports and papers: document details

Document title:

What would it take to eradicate health inequalities? Testing the fundamental causes theory of health inequalities in Scotland


This report warns that efforts to reduce Scotland's health inequalities gap will fail unless they tackle the fundamental causes of poor health.

The study looked at 30 years of health inequality trends in Scotland and the rise and fall of particular causes of death. Decreasing periods of health inequality have previously been observed in the UK suggesting that this situation is not inevitable and that there is urgent need for action to address inequalities in income, resources and power across society.

The report shows that the gap in deaths across different social groups for specific causes decreased, while others emerged. It reveals that there is little difference in death rates from non-preventable diseases like brain and ovarian cancer, but large differences in more preventable causes like alcohol-related deaths and heart disease.

Research has shown that causes of death responsible for inequalities have changed over time from heart disease and tuberculosis in the 1970s and 1980s to drugs and alcohol-related deaths more recently. The common factor in the persistence of health inequalities is social inequalities.

The results have important policy implications for continued efforts to reduce health inequalities in Scotland.


Sonya Scott, Esther Curnock, Rory Mitchell, Mark Robinson, Martin Taulbut, Elaine Tod, Gerry McCartney

Publisher(s): ScotPHO / NHS Health Scotland
Date published: 18th October 2013
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