National Records of Scotland

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Avoidable Mortality in Scotland, 2020

Avoidable Mortality in Scotland, 2020

Monday, 7 Mar 2022
demography news release image

New figures published today from the National Records of Scotland show that of 63,093 registered deaths in Scotland in 2020, 17,153 (27%) were considered avoidable.

Key findings from the 2020 report show:

  • The rate of avoidable mortality increased by 9% (to 336 per 100,000 people) in 2020. This increase was mostly due to COVID-19 deaths.
  • After adjusting for age, avoidable mortality rates among males (425 per 100,000) were 1.7 times as high as those among females (253 per 100,000).
  • Cancers and circulatory diseases were the most common causes of avoidable mortality in 2020, accounting for 29% and 25% of all avoidable deaths respectively.
  • Alcohol and drug-related avoidable mortality rates increased for the ninth year in a row, with 52 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • After adjusting for age, avoidable mortality rates in the most deprived areas were nearly 4 times the rates of those in the least deprived areas.
  • Scotland has a higher avoidable mortality rate (336 per 100,000 people) than both England (257 per 100,000) and Wales (287 per 100,000).  This continues the historic trend of Scotland having the highest avoidable mortality rates among GB countries.

Avoidable mortality is a measure of deaths from causes for which all or most deaths are considered avoidable through timely and effective healthcare and public health interventions

Julie Ramsay, Head of Vital Events Statistics, said:

“The avoidable mortality rate in Scotland fell between 2003 and 2014, but remained fairly stable from then until 2019. The inclusion of COVID-19 as an avoidable cause of death has contributed to the increased rate of avoidable mortality seen in 2020.”

“Avoidable alcohol and drug-related deaths continued to increase, but there were fewer avoidable deaths from cancers and respiratory illnesses than in previous years.”

The publication ‘Avoidable Mortality in Scotland, 2020’ is available on the NRS website.


1. The full publication ‘Avoidable Mortality in Scotland, 2020’ and summary infographic are available on the NRS website. The report details information on the number of deaths that were registered in Scotland in 2020 which were classified as avoidable.

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

3. ‘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.

4. 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

5. 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:
Ewan Mathieson
NRS Communications
Tel: 07949 441311
Email: [email protected]

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