National Records of Scotland

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Avoidable deaths increase by 4%

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Avoidable deaths increase by 4%

Thursday, 10 Nov 2022
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More than a quarter of all deaths in Scotland in 2021 were avoidable, according to analysis by National Records of Scotland. 

28% of the 63,587 deaths registered last year were considered preventable or treatable, up from 27% in 2020.  The rate of avoidable deaths in 2021 was 4% higher than the previous year. Half of the increase in the latest year is attributable to COVID-19 deaths which are considered preventable. 

Cancers and circulatory diseases were the most common causes of avoidable mortality in 2021, accounting for 28% and 25% of all avoidable deaths respectively.

Alcohol and drug-related avoidable mortality rates increased for the ninth year in a row. 

Julie Ramsay, Head of Vital Events Statistics, said: 

“Avoidable mortality doesn’t impact everyone equally. The rate of avoidable deaths in the most deprived areas was over four times the rate of those in the least deprived areas.

After adjusting for age, avoidable mortality rates among males were 1.6 times as high as those among females.” 

The publication ‘Avoidable Mortality in Scotland, 2021’ is available on the NRS website.


The full publication ‘Avoidable Mortality in Scotland, 2021’ and summary infographic are available on the NRS website. The report details information on the number of deaths that were registered in Scotland in 2021 which were classified as avoidable.

Information is broken down by age-group, sex, cause of death, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintile, NHS Board and Local Authority area.

‘Avoidable mortality’ are deaths which are considered either preventable or treatable through public health or healthcare interventions. The term ‘avoidable mortality’ is based on an international definition by the OECD/Eurostat and looks only at deaths under the age of 75.

When discussing avoidable deaths, the following terms are used:

  • Preventable mortality – deaths that can be mainly avoided through effective public health and primary prevention interventions
  • Treatable mortality – deaths that can be mainly avoided through timely and effective healthcare interventions, including secondary prevention and treatment
  • Avoidable mortality – deaths defined as either preventable or treatable

National Records of Scotland (NRS) produces statistics on Scotland’s population, including the numbers of births, deaths, marriages and other vital events. General information about NRS’s statistics can be found in the About our Statistics section of its website.

Media enquiries should be directed to:

Donna Green
NRS Communications
Tel: 07775-027-380
Email: [email protected] 

Further information about the statistics is available from:

NRS Customer Services
Email: [email protected]