Drinking and smoking continue to blight the health of Borderers

A third of men and nearly a quarter of women in the region drink too much, writes Sally Gillespie.

That is one of several statistics on Borderers’ health in the latest report from the joint director of public health at Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders, Dr Eric Baijal.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, for Dr Baijal says that Borders men can expect to live two years longer than the average Scottish male and Borders females, one-and-a-half years.

“There are small areas where people’s life chances are disproportionately poor due, for example, to poverty, illness, poor housing, social environment or access to services. Despite this, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy in the Borders is amongst the best in Scotland,” he said.

He presented information on what limits health in the region in his report to Scottish Borders councillors last week.

He said: “Although smoking has fallen rapidly over the last few decades ... a significant number of people still smoke in the Borders.

“Drinking above recommended levels is also common and trends for obesity have already led to the situation where the majority of adults are overweight or obese.

“Poverty is also a significant problem locally and one that could get worse with the economic challenges we face.”

Latest figures show a third of men (34 per cent) – 18,150 – and almost a quarter of women (23 per cent) – 13,080 – in the region drink too much. A quarter of people – 27,500 – are obese with a BMI (body mass index) of over 30 and nearly a quarter – 26,400 – smoke, while 18,000 people’s health is affected by poverty.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the most prevalent ‘serious sickness’ in the Borders, affecting more than 16,300 people or 14.5 per cent of the population.

Depression affecting 10,400 people is the second most serious illness in the region, blighting over nine per cent of the population’s lives.

Asthma, suffered by more than 7,300 people in the area, is the third most prevalent, while obesity – more than 6,600 – is the fourth most serious illness affecting nearly six per cent of Borderers. And Dr Baijal cautions that the obesity figures may not be accurate as many may not be registered.

Latest figures show the longest time in care – over 7,100 bed days – are for people with Alzheimer’s and senile dementia. Third on the list are those with psychosis who account for more than 5,600 occupied bed days, while depression causes the fourth highest number of bed days at just over 4,200.

The most admissions – 314 and 256 respectively – are for respiratory diseases, followed by kidney and urinary infections, though these are the shortest stays.

In the Borders heart disease and strokes account for a large percentage of death from middle age onwards in men.

“Cancers are responsible for deaths at all ages, even in the youngest age group, but rise to prominence from middle age too,” says Dr Baijal.

Graphics show high cancer levels in women from their mid-20s to their 70s, and injuries, road accidents, poisoning, suicides “account for a significant percentage of deaths in young people”, said Dr Baijal.

Two-thirds of the area’s population live outside the main Borders towns and compared to the rest of Scotland this region has a lower proportion of people of working age and a higher proportion of people of pensionable age.