Scotland - some men beginning to lead a healthier lifestyle and therefore living longer..

December 18, 2009 - The gap in life expectancy between the sexes is closing because men are beginning to lead healthier lifestyles than women, Scotland's top doctor has said. Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns (Scottish Government's principal medical adviser) his annual report to highlight the narrowing gap between the number of years men and women can expect to live.

In 1980 the life expectancy for men and women was 68.7 years and 75.1 years respectively. But by 2008 male life expectancy had risen by 6.6 years to 75.3 years and female life expectancy increased by 4.9 years to 80 years.

Dr Burns said: "In every country women live longer than men and the same is true for Scotland. However current data suggests that men are narrowing the gap.

Dr Burns: "An examination of health-related behaviours suggests that Scots men appear to be more likely than Scots women to adopt healthy behaviours. In particular, men in Scotland are less likely to be smokers than in the past and this changing pattern of behaviour appears now to be accelerating gains in life expectancy."

The decrease in smoking by males may mean lung cancer will be more common in women than it is in men by the end of this decade. The report also said that over the last 10 years more men than women have achieved the recommended levels for exercise.

Dr Burns said: "The fact that males appear to be exercising slightly more frequently than females may be contributing to the narrowed gap in life expectancy."

Deaths from heart attack, stroke and cancer in the under-75s had all fallen in the last 10 years.

But Dr Burns added: "The conventional causes of premature death have been replaced by others. An examination of the statistics suggests that deaths due to alcohol, addictions, injury and suicide are increasing, particularly in the more deprived areas of Scotland."

Scotland now has one of the highest rates of deaths from liver cirrhosis in Europe. In the 1970s it had one of the lowest.

Dr Burns said alcohol can have a considerable impact on mental health as well.

He also highlighted the dangers of obesity, saying there was now little doubt "that Scots are following a similar pattern of eating behaviour to the Americans".

He said: "Serious efforts to reduce calorie consumption and increase energy expenditure across the whole population will be required if we are not to see an unnecessary rise in mortality from heart disease and stroke, with a consequent negative impact on life expectancy."

Dr Burns stressed the importance of establishing healthy habits in childhood to help tackle such problems.

"We all know what the healthier choices are: drinking less, not smoking, exercising more and eating sensibly. And evidence shows this could add up to 13 years of extra life. So why aren't we a healthier nation? Of course there is no single explanation but we do know the importance of instilling healthy habits in childhood. We want future generations to eat more healthily, drink more sensibly and take more exercise than their parents, and of course not to smoke. All of that depends on today's parents making an effort to support their children and give them a platform for success in their lives. Nurturing our children and developing their sense of control over their lives will give them the resources they need to look after themselves and make healthy choices in life.

"This is an important aspect of strategies to improve the health of Scots."

We wonder if Dr. Burn's is also seeing health improvements in Glasgow. As we know smoking rates are higher in Glasgow than in the rest of Scotland.

Reference: Scottish men narrow gap in life expectancy herald scotland staff, The Herald, 12/16/2009.

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Published on 16 Dec 2009