STUDY OBJECTIVE: To assess the size of mortality differentials in men by social class in Scotland as compared with England and Wales, and to analyse the time trends in these differentials. SUBJECTS: Men from England and Wales and Scotland around each census from 1951 to 1981. METHODS: Poisson regression analysis was used to calculate relative indices of inequality for disease specific and all cause mortality as a measure of mortality differentials between social classes. This measure is not dependent on the size of the social class groups, so it can be used to compare the magnitude of differentials over time periods during which the relative sizes of social class groups change. MAIN RESULTS: While overall death rates were higher in Scotland than in England and Wales around the 1951, 1961, and 1971 censuses the relative indices of inequality indicated smaller mortality differences between social classes in Scotland. Inequality, as indexed by the relative index of inequality, increased over time in both Scotland and England and Wales, but to a greater degree in Scotland, resulting in greater social class mortality differentials for Scotland in 1981 (the relative index of inequality increased from 1.40 to 2.43 for England and Wales, and from 1.22 to 2.57 for Scotland between 1951 and 1981). This greater increase in the magnitude of inequalities in all cause mortality in Scotland seemed to result from increasing social class differentials in cardiovascular disease, accidents and external causes, and "all other causes of death". Examining the trends in overall death rates, it seems that the greater increase in social class differences in Scotland occurred because of the greater decrease in death rates among the privileged social groups, in combination with a smaller decrease (or a greater increase) in the death rates in the lower social class groups. CONCLUSIONS: This study has shown that trends in mortality and in inequalities in mortality differ within Great Britain. Although death rates were higher in Scotland than in England and Wales, smaller mortality differentials by social class were found in Scotland over the period 1951 to 1971. By 1981, however, social class mortality differentials were greater in Scotland than in England and Wales. The greater increase in the social class differentials over time in Scotland, may have contributed to the worsening overall mortality profile in Scotland as compared with England and Wales that occurred between 1971 and 1981.
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