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High Level Summary of Statistics: Population and Migration


Deaths in Scotland
Last updated: November 2017

In 2016, 56,728 deaths were registered in Scotland. This was 851 (1.5%) fewer than in 2015. It represented 10.5 deaths per 1,000 population in 2016.

From the 1950s up to the early 1990s the annual number of deaths remained relatively stable at about 60,000 to 65,000 a year. The total then declined gradually to 53,661 in 2011 which was the lowest total recorded since the introduction of civil registration in 1855. Since then the number of deaths has risen, with the 2016 figure being the second highest since 2003.

There has been a focus in recent years on deaths from cancer, coronary (ischaemic) heart disease and cerebrovascular disease - the so-called ‘three big killers’. In 1980, these accounted for around two-thirds of all deaths in Scotland. However, the proportion of deaths from these three causes has fallen over time and now accounts for less than half of all deaths (47% in 2016). The proportion of deaths caused by coronary heart disease has fallen from 29% in 1980-82 to 12% in 2016 and cerebrovascular disease from 14% to 7% over the same period.

In contrast, the number of deaths from cancer has risen (from an average of 13,903 per year in 1980-82 to 15,901 in 2016); as a proportion of all deaths, it increased from 22% to 28%. There has also been an increase in deaths from respiratory system diseases (for example pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) from 11% of all deaths in 1980-82 to 13% in 2016 and there are now more deaths from respiratory system diseases (7,294 in 2016) than from coronary heart disease (6,697). Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have more than doubled in the last decade and now account for 10% of all deaths.

Of the 15,901 deaths from cancer in 2016, cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung was the most common type, with 4,035 deaths (2,081 males and 1,954 females). This accounted for a quarter of all cancer deaths. The next most frequent type of cancer death was prostate for males (894 deaths) and breast for females (1,020 deaths). Bowel cancer caused 1,661 deaths (872 males and 789 females) and cancers of the lymphoid, haematopoietic and related tissue caused 1,086 deaths (603 males and 483 females).

There were 181 deaths of infants (children aged under one) in 2016.

Source: NRS Registration data

More information about Deaths (National Records of Scotland (NRS) website)

Death Certificates and Coding the Causes of Death (NRS website)

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