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Healthy Ageing in Scotland Case Study

Researchers

Professor David Bell, Professor, Management School

Dr Elaine Douglas, Research Fellow, Management School

Background

The first of its kind in Scotland, the Healthy Ageing in Scotland (HAGIS) project, provides pioneering research into the lives of Scotland’s older population. It’s a Scotland-wide study of the health, economic and social circumstances of people aged 50+, and the first in Scotland to follow individuals and households through time. In its pilot phase, researchers at the University of Stirling analysed the data of 1,000 Scots over the age of 50 – supplying a wealth of information to influence and support the debate around the issues affecting our ageing population.

The initial findings of the £500,000 study have revealed important insights into the employment, social security, health and life expectancy of the older generation. The pilot study is funded by the US-based National Institute of Aging and Nuffield Foundation.

infographic: Scotland

Scotland

has poor health and low life expectancy

Why does Scotland need a longitudinal study of ageing?

Scotland’s older population is increasing faster than in other parts of the UK. The country also has poor health and low life expectancy when compared with other economically similar nations. Therefore we need to learn more about the effects of these changes to inform social care and health policies in Scotland.

HAGIS has joined the Gateway to Global Aging Data – a group of studies covering more than two-thirds of the world’s population aged 50+. HAGIS provides a benchmark and for the first time, enables comparison of the over 50s in Scotland with those in other countries.

The evidence

The initial findings of the study are already revealing interesting insights, spanning a number of policy areas, including:

infographic: Only 18%

Only 18%

of people who identify themselves as being in poor health are in work

Employment

Scotland’s older population is increasing faster than in other parts of the UK. The country also has poor health and low life expectancy when compared with other economically similar nations. Therefore we need to learn more about the effects of these changes to inform social care and health policies in Scotland.

HAGIS has joined the Gateway to Global Aging Data – a group of studies covering more than two-thirds of the world’s population aged 50+. HAGIS provides a benchmark and for the first time, enables comparison of the over 50s in Scotland with those in other countries.

infographic:

Increasing the participation rate of single males to the Scottish average would save around 3.2 lives per year

Health

HAGIS data suggests that single men are significantly less likely to participate in bowel cancer screening tests (57.6%), compared to those who live with a partner (79.5%). Increasing the participation rate of single males to the Scottish average would save around 3.2 lives per year, based on Scottish Government estimates of the effectiveness of the screening programme. The uptake of screening is also lower in deprived areas, so raising awareness in these households would also be beneficial.

infographic: 42%

42%

do not have any pension arrangements in addition to state provision

Social security and disability

Disability is age related and the prevalence of disability is highest in deprived areas. The percentage of people with a “high” measure of disability increases from 11.9 percent of the population to 48.8 percent between the ages of 50-59 and 80+.

A significant proportion of those with “high” levels of disability are not claiming disability-related benefits and this warrants further investigation. Nearly half of people who think their physical abilities are substantially limiting are not receiving either Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance. These benefits are the largest of those being transferred to the Scottish Government from the UK Department of Work and Pensions.

infographic: Almost 50%

Almost 50%

with a disability that substantially limits their physical abilities are not receiving disability benefits

Life expectancy and retirement

Life expectancy is typically underestimated, with women underestimating their life expectancy more than men.

People in more affluent areas are more likely to underestimate their life expectancy. Someone living in the most affluent area of Scotland typically underestimates their life expectancy by 2.4 years on average, compared to someone in the most deprived areas who on average underestimates by 1.4 years.

Almost 40 percent expect to retire before the State Pension Age (SPA), 30 percent are planning to retire at the point of eligibility. Another 30 percent believe they will continue working past SPA.

A relatively large proportion of respondents (42%) do not have any pension arrangements other than state provision, while 49 percent are enrolled in an occupation pension scheme. 23 percent have a private pension and 14 percent have both an occupational and a private pension.

HAGIS is an important resource for academics and policymakers seeking to understand the challenges faced by older people in Scotland. Its links to similar studies worldwide and to administrative records in Scotland, make it a more powerful tool for understanding these challenges than any other survey currently available. It comes at a time when the Scottish Government is acquiring new powers, many of which affect older people.

Professor David Bell, leader of the HAGIS study, University of Stirling Management School

What next?

The aim is now to expand the study’s reach by including 7,000 people and re-interviewing them every two years.

Find out more about that latest HAGIS news.

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