From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Mountain Plot Jigsaw

We identified the need to develop an interactive activity based on our research targeted at young people and adults.

Background: In 2007 we produced a report on inequalities in mortality (available from It was the first post census decennial supplement for Scotland and documented changes in mortality over time, age, gender and causes of death. One key aspect of interest was the contribution of specific causes of death to area-based inequalities, across the age spectrum. Using population and mortality data for men 2001-03, we calculated the Slope Index of Inequality (SII) based on the income domain of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The SII describes the extent of inequalities within any given age group for each cause. This measure is the difference in mortality rates between the notionally most and least deprived areas obtained by fitting a regression line through the mortality rates in all five quintiles. This difference is divided by the overall mortality for that age group to give the SII. The maximum value this can take is 2. These SIIs are plotted for each age group and cause to give a mountain plot. The mountain plot displays the contribution of different causes of death to inequalities across all ages of life. The height of the bands at each age indicates the extent to which inequalities in all cause mortality are attributable to the individual causes. The area of each cause indicates the extent to which overall inequality is attributable to that cause.

We developed the mountain plot as a jigsaw in 2013 with the aim of communicating key findings from our report and engaging people in discussions around inequalities in mortality. In order to complete the jigsaw people need to think about the different causes of death, the different causes that occur at each age, and what inequalities mean. They then need to think about which causes of death make the most contribution to inequalities at each age.


MRC Centenary Celebrations Public Health interactive games at Glasgow Science Centre
June 2013
Children enjoying the jigsaw
The jigsaw had a very successful outing as part of the MRC Centenary Celebrations Public Health interactive games at Glasgow Science Centre. Despite being an adult activity children really enjoyed doing the jigsaw; they copied the picture and were pleased when they finished it. The range of ages was 3-12. Comments “the jigsaw is the best thing I’ve done today” (age 4) “it looks like a volcano” (age 5). Adults enjoyed the activity too. Two participants who had some background in health (worked for NHS and used ISD data, pharmacist) were very positive about the jigsaw and liked the way it represented the information. They commented that the jigsaw was “A good representation of a hard concept” and “an effective way to communicate the information” and suggested “I’m going to tell people where I work that we should be doing this instead of just a graph on the wall”. Most adults hadn’t thought about inequalities before but they had a go at doing the jigsaw. One couple were very engaged and had an in-depth discussion with each other about the suicides and how shocking it was.
Royal Statistical Society Glasgow Local Group Seminar
December 2013
Ruth Dundas was invited to co-ordinate a seminar for the Royal Statistical Society Glasgow Group entitled "Public Engagement: Some perspectives from statistics and public health". This involved presentations to an audience of other researchers interested in the development of public engagement materials and evaluation of activities but currently hindered by the challenges of communicating about complex statistics-based research with the public.