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Life expectancy of different ethnic groups using death records linked to population census data for 4.62 million people in Scotland
  1. Laurence Gruer1,
  2. Geneviève Cézard1,
  3. Esta Clark2,
  4. Anne Douglas1,
  5. Markus Steiner3,
  6. Andrew Millard4,
  7. Duncan Buchanan5,
  8. Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi6,
  9. Aziz Sheikh1,
  10. Raj Bhopal1
  1. 1Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Demographic Statistics, National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3Department of Child Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  4. 4Public Health Science Directorate, NHS Health Scotland, Glasgow, UK
  5. 5Information Services, NHS National Services Scotland, Edinburgh, UK
  6. 6MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Laurence Gruer, Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK;{at}


Background Few countries record the data needed to estimate life expectancy by ethnic group. Such information is helpful in assessing the extent of health inequality.

Method Life tables were created using 3 years of deaths (May 2001–April 2004) linked to Scottish 2001 Census data for 4.62 million individuals with self-reported ethnicity. We created 8 ethnic groups based on the census definitions, each with at least 5000 individuals and 40 deaths. Life expectancy at birth was calculated using the revised Chiang method.

Results The life expectancy of White Scottish males at birth was 74.7 years (95% CI 74.6 to 74.8), similar to Mixed Background (73.0; 70.2 to 75.8) and White Irish (75.0; 74.0 to 75.9), but shorter than Indian (80.9; 78.4 to 83.4), Pakistani (79.3; 76.9 to 81.6), Chinese (79.0; 76.5 to 81.5), Other White British (78.9; 78.6 to 79.2) and Other White (77.2; 76.4 to 78.1). The life expectancy of White Scottish females was 79.4 years (79.3 to 79.5), similar to mixed background (79.3; 76.6 to 82.0), but shorter than Pakistani (84.6; 82.0 to 87.3), Chinese (83.4; 81.1 to 85.7), Indian (83.3; 80.7 to 85.9), Other White British (82.6; 82.3 to 82.9), other White (82.0; 81.3 to 82.8) and White Irish (81; 80.2 to 81.8).

Conclusions Males and females in most of the larger ethnic minority groups in Scotland have longer life expectancies than the majority White Scottish population.

  • Life course epidemiology

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  • Twitter Follow Srinivasa Katikireddi at @vkatikireddi

  • Contributors LG was the lead writer. GC calculated the life expectancies with advice from EC. AD was the study research fellow. All authors helped interpret the data and critically revise successive drafts of the manuscript. RB is the principal investigator and guarantor of the study.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Scottish Chief Scientist's Office (grant number CZH/4/878) and Cancer Research UK (grant number C3743/A16594) with supplementary funding from NHS Health Scotland. NHS National Services Scotland and National Records of Scotland made ‘in-house’ contributions to the work. SVK is funded by a NRS Scottish Senior Clinical Fellowship (SCAF/15/02), the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12017/13) and the Chief Scientist's Office (SPHSU13).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Scottish Multicentre Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement At present, unpublished data are not available from this study which uses data sets made available to the researchers under strict arrangements by agreement of National Records of Scotland and NHS National Services Scotland. A possible data sharing arrangement is currently under discussion.