BACKGROUND: Since 1987 there has been an arrest in the previously established decline of tuberculosis notifications in Scotland. A study was undertaken to determine whether age contributed to this phenomenon. METHODS: Notifications of tuberculosis in Scotland were quantified by year and age group for the years 1981-92 from national statistics supplied by the Information and Statistics Division. Population data were obtained from the 1981 and 1991 national censuses. RESULTS: Age group analysis of pulmonary tuberculosis notifications showed that, in the 0-14 age group, incidence (per 10(5) population) decreased from 7.4 in 1981 to 2.6 in 1987, rising by an estimated 12.6% per annum to 3.7 in 1992. In the 65+ age group incidence declined from 30.1 in 1981 to 17.3 in 1988, and rose by an estimated 4.1% per annum to 22.2 in 1992. In the age groups 15-44 and 45-64 a continuous decrease in notification rate was seen over the period of the study. CONCLUSIONS: The plateauing of the incidence of tuberculosis in Scotland is associated with significant increases since 1987 of tuberculosis in the young and elderly. Contributions from ethnic minorities and those infected with HIV are negligible. An ageing population over the decade, with the highest tuberculosis rates seen in the older age group, may explain these findings.
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