National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Homeless Deaths 2020

Homeless Deaths 2020

Tuesday, 30 Nov 2021
Demographic Statistics News Release Image

An estimated 256 people died while experiencing homelessness in Scotland in 2020, according to new figures published by National Records of Scotland.  This was an increase of 40 deaths when compared to the previous year.

The report includes a monthly breakdown which shows the number of deaths was consistently higher during the months of May to September 2020 than in previous years.

Comparable figures for England and Wales are not yet available for 2020.   Previous figures show that Scotland’s rate of homeless deaths was the highest among GB countries in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde and South Ayrshire had the highest rates of homeless deaths within Scotland while six local authority areas had no deaths. It should be noted that deaths are sometimes recorded outside of the local authority where a person had applied for homelessness support. For example if they were placed in temporary accommodation in another local authority area or they were in hospital at the time of their death.

Head of Vital Events, Julie Ramsay, said:

“While these statistics help our understanding of this issue, it’s important to understand these figures are currently experimental and the methodology is under development.

“The estimated number of people dying while experiencing homelessness has risen consistently over the past three years. Improvements to the data sources and the ability to identify whether a person was homeless may partly explain some of this increase since 2017.

“The figures show people experiencing homelessness dying at younger ages than the population as a whole. The most common age bracket for men dying while homeless is 45-54 and for women it is 35-44. Most of those who died (77%) were male.

“More than half of homeless deaths (59%) were drug-related.  Eight per cent were due to circulatory diseases (such as heart disease and stroke) and five per cent due to cancers. There were no deaths where the underlying cause was COVID-19.”


The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics on Scotland’s population.

The full report and an infographic for Homeless Deaths 2020 is available on our website.

These are experimental figures. Establishing an accurate number is hard because not all people who die while experiencing homelessness have their lack of permanent home recorded on their death registration record. The estimated number of deaths is established by examining death registration records to find people who were either in temporary accommodation or were sleeping rough before they died and adding to this a conservative estimated figure based on sampling. The probability is the true figure is higher. The methodology is explained further in the report on our website.  

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff. General information about population statistics can be accessed in the About our Statistics section of the NRS website.

Media enquiries should be directed to:
Susie Rose at [email protected]  or by calling 07500 463452

Further information about the statistics is available from:
Statistics Customer Services                                
Tel: 0131 314 4299
E-mail: [email protected]