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Scots live longer when they leave the country

Posted April 7, 2018

Our longevity is determined by a huge variety of factors. Our genes, environment, lifestyle choices – everything plays a role when it comes to life expectancy. However, scientists do notice some weird phenomenon when it comes to Scots. Researchers from the Universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh found that Scots born abroad have lower death rates.

People from most ethnic groups tend to live longer than white Scots, especially if they are born abroad. Image credit: Virginia State Parks staff via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

A team of scientists looked at records of 4.26 million people who died in Scotland between 2001 and 2013. They paid a particularly strong attention to people’s ethnicity and birth place. This study showed that people from pretty much all ethnic groups live longer when they are not born in Scotland. Chinese people have very low death rates and Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups follow closely behind. In fact, death rates of Chinese men were almost half those of the native Scottish population. Even more interesting is that both males and females from ethnic minorities enjoy a longer life expectancy that white Scots. Finally, white Scottish people born abroad also had lower death rates than people from the same ethnic group born in Scotland.

Not everyone lives longer in Scotland than Scots themselves. For example, white Irish men had similar death rates and males from mixed background actually have a shorter life expectancy. Professor Raj Bhopal, one of the scientists from the research team, said: “Many people are surprised to learn that ethnic minority populations, and particularly those born abroad, have lower mortality than the Scottish population. The findings contradict the widely held perception that immigrants and ethnic minorities are a burden on the health and health care of our society”. But what could be the cause of this phenomenon?

Well, scientists are convinced that this effect is not genetic. White Scots who live abroad live longer than those who stay in Scotland, which shows indicated cultural and environmental factors. In fact, scientists think that the reason actually lays in health-related behaviours. It could be that local Scots are drinking and partying more, which reduced their life expectancy. When they are travelling and living abroad they could be eating healthier or maybe the same personality traits that encourage them to live in other countries promote healthy lifestyle.

Scientists say that this shows that immigrants are not a burden on healthcare systems, but this will not silence the sceptics. The problem is not that immigrants are of poorer health, but that they didn’t have time to contribute to the system itself. It is a common good, but healthcare, like every other system, is consumable and thus everyone has to contribute to maintain it.


Source: University of Edinburgh

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