PEOPLE in the most deprived areas of Greater Glasgow's health board are smoking and drinking less and eating healthier than a decade ago.

Research shows they also feel safer in their homes, are more positive about their quality of life and are gaining more qualifications.

A major health study of about 30,000 people over the past decade by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde suggests the city is slowly shaking off its "sick man of Europe" tag.

The improvements are most striking in the poorest areas.

Smoking rates between 1999 and 2011 dropped by about 10% in the most deprived areas, with the numbers exposed to passive smoking plummeting by about a quarter.

The gap between the most and least deprived has also "all but disappeared" in exercise levels and numbers drinking above the recommended weekly amount of alcohol.

However, the study, which was expanded in 2008 from Greater Glasgow to take in the Clyde area, warns about a "persistent" economic gulf between the most and least deprived areas.

A quarter of people in the health board's most deprived areas said they would have difficulty finding £100 for an emergency bill, against 8.6% in other areas.

Although smoking levels have dropped most significantly in poorest areas, estimates suggest it will be another 20 years before levels are equal to more affluent parts of the health board's area.

Exercise levels have also stayed "stubbornly static" over the past decade, with only about 50% of people taking the recommended 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week.

Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of public health for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: "The latest health and wellbeing survey reveals overall that there has been a gradual improvement in the health of people living in the more deprived areas who are closing the gap on the more affluent areas.

"But it also recognises there still remains challenges that need to addressed.

"I am particularly pleased there has been a steady decline in smoking rates and alcohol consumption.

"So often it is the negative aspect of health we read about in the media, but this survey shows there are some positive changes being achieved."

The study was carried out to monitor changes, from the most deprived to most affluent areas.

It shows that over the past 10 years there has been a steady decline in numbers smoking across the demographic, which is most marked in the city's most deprived areas.

Exposure to second hand smoke has dropped by 25%, attributed to the smoking ban that came into force in 2006.

However, the research showed just 23% of the most heavily-addicted people who responded to the survey were willing to quit.

The report said persuading this group to stop would dramatically reduce smoking rates.

In 1999 about 20% of people in the most deprived areas were exceeding the recommended weekly amount of alcohol – 14 units for women and 20 for men.

This had dropped to 15% by 2011.

There has been little variation in drinking levels in other, more affluent, areas of the city.

The survey also looked at exercise and found the number of people achieving the recommended amount of exercise has remained at the 50% mark for the past 11 years.

This is despite improvements to sports centres, high profile events, such as the Glasgow Women's 10K, and the largest exercise referral scheme in the UK.

Health bosses described the sport finding as "disappointing" and said mass participation events in Glasgow, such as the Great Scottish Run, had yet to attract widespread inclusion of people living in the most deprived areas.

The study also revealed eating habits have improved and, again, most significantly, in the most deprived areas.

The number of people getting five portions of fruit and vegetables in the poorest areas has increased from just under a quarter of the population to a third.

Across the demographic, those in the 25-34 age group were most likely to meet the target, with the over-75s least likely.

The number of people in the poorest areas who have three "unhealthy" habits, such as smoking, has also dropped from 35.7% to 30% over the past decade.

People in those areas have also experienced the most significant improvement in how they feel about their quality of life.

The number of people who felt isolated from family and friends has also reduced, with the rate in poorest areas dropping at approximately four times the rate of other areas.

In 1999, just over 60% of people in the poorest areas felt positive about their community. By 2011 this had risen to 80%. Dedicated police initiatives aimed at tackling violent crime and anti-social behaviour in communities have been credited for this.

Across the demographic, about 98% of survey respondents said they felt safe in their home in 2011.

Researchers also looked at the board area's education record, nothing that the number of people from the poorest areas with no qualifications had dropped by more than a quarter since 2002.

However, people from the poorest areas are still twice as likely to have no qualifications as those in other areas.

The number of people getting all their income from benefits has also been reduced over the past decade, with this year's welfare changes expected to reduce this figure further.