24,427 deaths were registered in Scotland between December 2022 and March 2023, representing the highest number of winter deaths in over thirty years, according to statistics published by National Records of Scotland today.
The statistics also show a seasonal increase of 4,137 additional deaths in winter, from December to March, compared with the non-winter periods. While this increase is considerably larger than the previous winter, it is lower than the recent winters of 2017/18 and 2020/21.
Daniel Burns, Head of Vital Events Statistics at National Records of Scotland, said:
“Today’s figures show that deaths in winter are at their highest level since 1989/90.
“The longer-term downward trend shows a recent increase in winter deaths, which may be partly driven by Scotland’s ageing population.
“Winter months generally see more deaths than other times of the year, however the seasonal increase in winter mortality fluctuates year on year.
“Older age groups are consistently the most affected by increased mortality in winter. For people aged 85 and over, there were 29% more winter deaths compared to 12% in the under 65 population.”
The cause of death with the largest seasonal increase was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 640 additional deaths. There were 310 additional deaths as a result of COVID-19 during this time.
Since 2019, fewer than ten deaths per year were directly due to cold weather, for example hypothermia.
The full ‘Winter Mortality in Scotland’ publication is available from the NRS website. It shows the seasonal increase in mortality recorded each winter in Scotland, broken down by age group, sex, cause of death, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation quintile, NHS Board, and Local Authority area.
The seasonal increase in mortality in the winter represents the number of additional deaths in winter. It is defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the four month winter period (December to March) and the average number of deaths in the two four-month periods which precede winter (August to November) and follow winter (April to July). It is also sometimes referred to as ‘excess winter deaths’ or ‘excess winter mortality’.
To account for differences in population size, seasonal increases for different areas are better compared using the Increased Winter Mortality Index (IWMI). This is defined as the number of additional winter deaths divided by the average number of deaths in a four month non-winter period, expressed as a percentage.
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