National Records of Scotland

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Winter Mortality in Scotland – 2015/16

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Winter Mortality in Scotland – 2015/16

Tuesday, 18 Oct 2016
Demography news release image

In total, 20,503 deaths were registered from December 2015 to March 2016, compared with 22,013 in the previous winter (2014/15), according to statistics released today by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

The 20,503 deaths registered in the four winter months of 2015/16 exceeded both the 17,625 deaths in the preceding four-month period and the 17,675 deaths in the following four-month period.

The seasonal difference (comparing the four winter months with the average of the four-month periods before and after the winter, and rounding the result) was 2,850 for winter 2015/16. This was 1,210 fewer than the corresponding figure of 4,060 for winter 2014/15 (which was the largest seasonal increase since the 5,190 for winter 1999/2000). The seasonal increase of 2,850 in winter 2015/16 was smaller than in most of the 64 previous winters, but exceeded the level seen in 14 of the previous 20 winters, and in 8 of the previous 10 winters.

The last sixteen winters have had seven out of the ten lowest seasonal increases in the 65 winters for which figures are available. NRS statistics show that mortality can fluctuate markedly from winter to winter: occasionally one year will have an unusually large figure, like winter 2014/15.

Commenting on ‘Winter Mortality in Scotland - 2015/16’, Tim Ellis, Chief Executive of NRS, said:

"There are always more deaths in the winter in Scotland than in any other season. These new figures from National Records of Scotland show that last winter’s seasonal increase was smaller than the one for winter 2014/15, but it was still above the level seen in eight of the previous ten winters.

“However, looking at our figures, which go back to 1951/52, the long-term trend has clearly been downward. Despite the unusually high figure for winter 2014/15, the five-year moving average (which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation) is at its fourth lowest ever level.

"There is no single cause of additional deaths in winter. Very few are caused by hypothermia and only a small proportion by influenza. The underlying causes of most of the additional deaths include respiratory and circulatory diseases (such as pneumonia, coronary heart disease and stroke), dementia, and Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.”

The full publication Winter Mortality in Scotland 2015/16 can be found on this website.