National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Discussion of Results

Discussion of Results

4.1 The Scottish Picture

4.1.1 Figure 1 shows that the expectation of life at birth in Scotland has improved over the last 20 years or so. It has increased from 69.3 years for males and 75.5 years for females born in the period 1981-83 to 74.2 years and 79.2 years respectively for those born in 2003-05, an increase of 4.9 years and 3.7 years respectively.

4.1.2 Figure 1 also shows that the gap between males and females is closing, dropping from 6.3 years in 1981-83 to 5.0 years in 2003-05.

4.1.3 Alternative, but very similar, results for Scotland are also produced by ONS (Office for National Statistics). For more details refer to Section 6.1.

4.1.4 While this report concentrates on improvements in life expectancy, mortality rates in Scotland have generally fallen more slowly than in the rest of the UK (United Kingdom) and elsewhere in Europe. The improvements are still considerable and the impact is demonstrated in the steadily rising expectation of life. However, Scottish men and woman have almost the lowest expectation of life at birth in the EU (European Union) (15 states).

4.2 Life Expectancy at Birth 2003-2005

4.2.1 Table 1 and Table 2 show the areas with the highest and lowest life expectancy at birth in Scotland for 2003-2005 for Council and NHS Board areas.

4.2.2 For males, amongst the Council areas, the lowest figure was for Glasgow City (69.9 years). This was the only area in Scotland where life expectancy at birth for males was less than 70 years in 2003-2005. The Council area with the highest life expectancy for men was East Dunbartonshire (77.7 years), 7.8 years more than Glasgow City.

4.2.3 Orkney Islands has the highest life expectancy for females (81.4 years), 4.7 years more than Glasgow City, the area with the lowest figure (76.7 years).

4.2.4 Of the NHS Board areas, the lowest figure for both males and females was for the old Greater Glasgow area (71.9 and 77.8 years respectively). The highest was for Orkney for both males and females (76.3 and 81.4 years respectively).

4.2.5 Table 3 and Table 4 show expectation of life at an 'exact age'. This is the average number of years that those at this age will live thereafter. These extracts from period life tables are constructed from the estimated population in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and the total number of deaths registered in these years. The column headed lx shows the numbers who would survive to the exact age of x, out of 100,000 persons who, from birth, were subject to the mortality probabilities indicated by the death records for 2003-2005. The column headed exo shows the expectation of life, that is, the average number of years of life left to persons aged exactly x who are subject to the 2003-2005 mortality probabilities from age x onwards. For example, on this basis a male aged 65 living in Glasgow City, could expect to live on average another 13.4 years, whereas a female aged 65 could expect to live on average another 17.1 years.

4.3 Accuracy of Results

4.3.1 Life expectancy at birth, like most statistics, is an estimate which is subject to a margin of error. The accuracy of the results can be indicated by calculating a confidence interval which provides a range of values within which the true underlying life expectancy would lie (with 95% probability).

4.3.2 The 95% confidence intervals for life expectancy at birth are given in Table 5, and are illustrated in Figure 2 and Figure 3 for Council and NHS Board areas within Scotland.

4.3.3 There is no simple 'rule of thumb' for the size of confidence intervals, although it largely depends upon the size of the population, and so confidence intervals for areas with small populations tend to be wider. It is also worth noting that life expectancy results in these areas can be affected by the random variation in the number of annual deaths. This means that the results can be erratic and vary from year to year.

4.3.4 More information about the methods used to calculate the standard errors and confidence intervals used in this report can be found in the ONS methodology paper 'Life expectancy at birth: methodological options for small populations'. Go to Section 6.2.2 for more details.

4.4 Comparisons Between 1993-1995 and 2003-2005

4.4.1 Overall, life expectancy at birth in Scotland has increased since 1993-1995 from 71.9 years to 74.2 years for males and 77.5 years to 79.2 years for females in 2003-2005. Table 1 & Table 2 also show the highest and lowest ranking Council and NHS Board area for both periods. The tables show the gap between males and females is closing, from 5.6 years in 1993-1995 to 5.0 years in 2003-2005. For Council areas, the gap between highest and lowest areas for male life expectancy at birth is increasing (from 7.0 years in 1993-1995 to 7.8 years in 2003-2005). For females, the gap is also increasing (from 4.3 to 4.7 years).

4.4.2 The maps at Figure 4a and Figure 4b and the chart in Figure 4c show the Council areas with the highest and lowest percentage increase over the 10 year period. For males, the Shetland Islands had the largest increase with 5.9% and West Dunbartonshire the lowest with 0.1%. For females, Argyll and Bute had the largest increase with 3.5% and East Ayrshire the lowest with 0.9%.

4.4.3 Figure 5 shows similar information for NHS Boards. For males, Shetland had the largest increase at 5.9% and the Western Isles the lowest with 1.0%. For females, the Highland part of the former Argyll & Clyde had the largest increase with 3.5% and Borders the lowest with 1.3%.

4.4.4 Over the 10 year period the ranking of many Council and NHS Boards has changed (Table 1 and Table 2). For males, amongst the Council areas, the Shetland Islands has risen 13 places to 14th while Clackmannanshire has fallen 12 places to 25th. For females, Argyll and Bute has risen 12 places to 6th while Scottish Borders has fallen 10 places to 14th.

4.4.5 Of the NHS Boards, Shetland has risen 9 places to 6th and Forth Valley has fallen 6 places to 12th for males. For females, the Highland part of the former Argyll & Clyde area has risen 8 places to 3rd and Borders has fallen 6 places to 8th.

4.4.6 Of course, when confidence intervals for the results are taken into account, the rise and fall of the rankings over time are not exact, especially for areas with relatively small populations such as Orkney and Shetland. Confidence intervals for 1993-1995 are not presented here, but are available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website, 'Life expectancy at birth by health and local authorities in the United Kingdom 1991-1993 to 2002-2004'.

4.5 Revised Life Expectancy Figures from 1981-1983 and Comparisons with 2003-2005

4.5.1 Life expectancy data has been produced for the periods 1981-1983 to 1990-1992 to take account of the population estimates for the 1980’s which were revised following the 2001 Census. This data will allow a more detailed comparison to be made of the long-term trends in life expectancy in different administrative areas. It is planned to carry out detailed statistical analyses of these trends, but in the meantime the following key points are presented for the 23 year period covered.

4.5.2   Table 6 and Table 7 show a historic time-series back to the period 1981-1983. Tables with more detail are available from the this website including life expectancy results for an 'exact age':

4.5.3 Life expectancy at birth in Scotland has increased since 1981-1983 from 69.3 years to 74.2 years for males (4.9 years) and 75.5 years to 79.2 years for females (3.7 years). Table 8 and Table 9 show the highest and lowest ranking Council and NHS Board area for both periods. These tables also show that the gap between males and females is closing, from a gap of 6.2 years in 1981-83 to 5.0 years in 2003-2005. For Council areas, the gap between highest and lowest areas for male life expectancy at birth is increasing (from 5.0 years in 1981-83 to 7.8 years in 2003-2005). For females, the gap is similarly increasing (from 3.8 to 4.7 years).

4.5.4 The maps at Figure 6a and Figure 6b and the chart in Figure 6c show the Council areas with the highest and lowest percentage increase over the period. For males, Highland had the largest increase with 10.1% and West Dunbartonshire the lowest with 2.9%. For females, South Ayrshire had the largest increase with 6.8% and Angus the lowest with 2.3%.

4.5.5 Figure 7 shows similar information for NHS Boards. For males, the old Highland area had the largest increase at 10.1% and Shetland the lowest with 5.0%. For females, Orkney had the largest increase with 6.6% and Western Isles the lowest with 3.3%.

4.5.6 It is important to note that the populations of Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles NHS Boards are small compared with the other areas, therefore their results should be looked at along with the confidence intervals supplied in the more detailed tables (Go to Section 4.5.2 for details).