National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Winter deaths: 2017/18 highest since 1999/2000

Winter deaths: 2017/18 highest since 1999/2000

Tuesday, 16 Oct 2018
Demograpghy News Release Image

Figures released today by National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that a total of 23,137 deaths were registered across Scotland from December 2017 to March 2018, (winter 2017/18) compared with 20,946 in the previous winter (2016/17).  It was the largest number since 23,379 deaths were registered in winter 1999/2000. 

The seasonal increase in mortality - the number of ‘additional’ deaths in the winter (compared with the average for the periods before and after it) - was 4,800 for winter 2017/18.  This was 2,070 more than the corresponding figure of 2,730 for winter 2016/17, and the largest such figure since 5,190 in winter 1999/2000.  NRS statistics show that winter mortality can fluctuate from one year to the next, with some years seeing unusually large seasonal increases, such as the 4,060 in winter 2014/15.   

There is no single cause of ‘additional’ deaths in winter. The underlying causes of most of the ‘additional’ deaths include respiratory system diseases (such as flu, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),  circulatory system diseases (such as coronary heart disease and stroke), dementia, and Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases.  Very few are caused by hypothermia.

Commenting on these statistics, Anne Slater, Chief Executive of NRS, said:

"There are always more deaths in the winter in Scotland than in any other season, but the long-term trend since the early 1950s has clearly been downward.  However, the average value for the latest five years (which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation) is now above the level that had applied since the early 2000s.  It is too soon to say whether there has been a change in the long-term trend: it could just be a short-term rise, like that seen roughly 20 years ago, after which the average fell for several years.”

Also today, NRS expanded the alcohol-specific deaths section of its website to provide figures for each year from 1979 to 1999, and the age-standardised death rates section to provide alcohol-specific death rates for those years.

The publication Winter Mortality in Scotland 2017/18 and an Infographic are available on this website.