The Glasgow Effect

We spent a week in Glasgow, before heading for the Western Scottish countryside. There we will hide in an old stone cottage for two weeks and crunch numbers on our laptops. About 25 years ago, I have been doing fieldwork in the Motherwell opencast coal mine, monitoring the particle emissions from excavation, haul trucks and blasting operations. I remember that I had to give up my running shoes to what I thought was a vicious dog. It stopped me rather fiercely in my running exercise. But it just liked to play with these shoes, and when I left them behind, it did not attack me further. Now I was back for a few days. I don't really know why. We just thought: why not? And knowing that this will be a bit of a rough place, we went to have a look. Of course we knew, it will not be pretty. But it is interesting. And here is why.

The so-called "Glasgow Effect", is a term describing the interestingly poor health of people in this city. Premature mortality rates were in 2010 about 30 % higher than in similar cities, like Liverpool and Manchester. In 2008 the male life expectancy in Carlton, was down to 54 years. Alcohol, drug abuse and violent gang crimes, were often attributed to this. But also Vitamin D deficit, and poor nutrition was hypothesized to play a role. Generally, people seem to make very unhealthy lifestyle choices. Obesity is a problem in all Scotland though (even the entire UK), not just in Glasgow. To see the situation in numbers, I found the Glasgow in Indicators Project very insightful. But also, I found it a bit depressing. What's wrong with this place? If you don't look at it scientifically, it nearly feels like it is haunted with something.

But then there are the lovely sides of Glasgow's culture too. The roughest looking guys maybe "good lads" when you talk to them. Grannies which can't move their little fat bodies, but help somebody in a wheelchair mounting a public bus. And also to mention the little "romances" between the tire fitting and tattoo shops, when he takes her out to the "Blue Lagoon" (you don't want to know the menu). The Glasgow Effect has attracted a lot of attention, and is well researched, even though not fully understood. There have been improvements. But still it is hard to translate facts into policies. It would be interesting to have a view, perhaps not of a statistician, but of a writer like George Orwell on today's Glasgow. Something like a contemporary The Road to Wigan Pier. Even though, I don't think you can treat it with the same logic. Perhaps this even already exists. I have not followed contemporary English literature in recent years. I will have a look. Might be better than another spreadsheet.