National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Lowest recorded birth rate

Lowest recorded birth rate

Wednesday, 11 Mar 2020
Demography news release image

11,867 births and 15,565 deaths were registered in Scotland between 1 October and 31 December 2019, according to provisional figures released today by National Records of Scotland.

This is the lowest number of births registered in quarter four since civil registration began in 1855.

The number of deaths registered was the highest quarter four total since 1999.

Compared to the quarter four average for the previous five years, births have fallen by 9.7 per cent and deaths have risen by 6.9 per cent.

There is no single reason for the downward trend in the number of births, however, the beginning of the recent fall in births coincided with the financial crash just over a decade ago, so economic uncertainty may be influencing decisions around childbearing. The average age of mothers has increased in recent years suggesting that people are postponing  childbearing until later in life.

The age-standardised mortality rate has increased for the last two quarters.  It takes into account the growing and ageing population and is therefore the best indicator of the direction of the mortality trend.  

Compared with the four quarter average over the previous five years, 2014-2018:

  • The number of cancer deaths rose by 4.4 per cent to 4,310;
  • Deaths from respiratory diseases rose by 3.3 per cent to 1,812;
  • The number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease rose by 15.0 per cent to 1,798;
  • The number of deaths from coronary heart disease fell by 3.6 per cent to 1,690;
  • There were 1,055 deaths from cerebrovascular disease (an increase of 1.9 per cent).

Paul Lowe, the Registrar General for Scotland, said:
“The number of births registered in the fourth quarter was the lowest since records began and continues the downward trend we have seen since 2008.
“We have also seen the highest number of fourth quarter deaths in 20 years, and the age-standard mortality rate, which adjusts for Scotland’s ageing population, has increased by 1.6%, providing further evidence of a change in the mortality trend.”

The provisional figures also show there were 5,683 marriages in total. This is 7.7 per cent lower than the average number of fourth quarter marriages for the previous five years, and the lowest quarter four marriage figure since 2010.

There were 201 same-sex marriages, 25 fewer than in 2018 quarter four. Of the same sex marriages registered in the fourth quarter, 12 (6.0 per cent) were changes from civil partnerships. 

There were 22 civil partnerships (15 male and 7 female), two fewer than in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The publication Births, Deaths and other Vital Events 2019, Quarter 4 and an Infographic are available on this website.