National Records of Scotland

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COVID-19 deaths driving fall in life expectancy

COVID-19 deaths driving fall in life expectancy

Thursday, 23 Sep 2021
Demography News Release

Life expectancy at birth in Scotland fell in the latest year, with the average life expectancy at birth for males being 76.8 years and 81.0 years for females, according to statistics published by National Records of Scotland. 

The figures for 2018-2020 represent a decrease of around 17.6 weeks for males and 6.1 weeks for females since last year’s estimates, the biggest annual decrease since the series of life expectancy estimates began in 1980-1982.

Deprivation continues to have an impact on life expectancy, with males living in the least deprived areas having 13.5 years more life expectancy than those living in the most deprived areas and females 10.2 years more.  This gap has become wider in recent years.

Female life expectancy at birth was highest in East Renfrewshire (84.0 years) and lowest in Glasgow City (78.3 years) whilst male life expectancy at birth was highest in Shetland Islands (80.6 years) and lowest in Glasgow City (73.1 years).

Scotland has the lowest life expectancy at birth of all UK countries. Average life expectancy in the UK was 79.0 years for males and 82.9 years for females. Over the latest year life expectancy has fallen in all UK countries.

Julie Ramsay, Head of Vital Events Statistics at NRS, said:

“It is clear that the high number of excess deaths in 2020 has led to the fall in life expectancy. Our analysis shows that COVID-19 deaths accounted for the vast majority of the fall in life expectancy for both males and females, with drug-related deaths also having a negative impact on life expectancy for males. 

”This measure of life expectancy provides an important summary of the health of the population and helps to show how this is changing over time.  Increases in life expectancy point to a healthier population whilst reductions point to a decline in population health. COVID-19 has clearly driven a significant increase in deaths and this life expectancy measure will provide important evidence as to whether the impact of the pandemic is a one-off shock or whether it will have a sustained impact on mortality.”

The publication 'Life Expectancy in Scotland, 2018-2020' is available from this website. 

Media enquiries should be directed to:  
Donna Green
Tel: 07775 027 380
Email: [email protected]

Further information about the statistics is available from:
NRS Customer Services
Email: [email protected]