National Records of Scotland

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Death rate up 6% in first quarter of 2023

Death rate up 6% in first quarter of 2023

Tuesday, 13 Jun 2023
demography news release image

Scotland’s death rate was six per cent higher than the five year average for the first quarter of 2023, according to new analysis by the National Records of Scotland. 

The age-standardised mortality rate for January to March this year was 1,359 per 100,000 population. This rate takes into account the growing and ageing population and is therefore the best indicator of the direction of the mortality trend. 

At 18,522 the number of deaths in 2023 quarter one was 12.5 per cent higher than the quarter one average of 16,468. This figure does not take into account the growing and ageing population. 

Julie Ramsay, Head of Demographic Statistics at National Records of Scotland, said: 

“There were increases across a range of different causes of death.

“Deaths from respiratory diseases were almost 23% higher than the five year average. Within this group, flu accounted for more than a third of the excess deaths. Deaths from cancer were 6.4% higher and those from coronary heart disease and dementias were both around 12% higher.”

Coronavirus (COVID-19) was the underlying cause of 546 deaths during quarter one and there were no deaths where the underlying cause was adverse effects of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile the number of births fell six per cent compared to the five year average. There were 11,655 births registered in Scotland between 1 January and 31 March 2023. Marriages have returned to pre-pandemic levels. There were 3,073 marriages in quarter 1 of 2023. This was 0.4% higher than the recent average. 

The report and the associated data is available on the NRS website.


Comparisons are usually made by comparing the current year to the average of the previous five years.  For 2023, standard practice would be to compare against the 2018-2022 average.  However, as the 2020 figures were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – marriages were much lower than usual, deaths were higher, and registration of births was delayed – comparing 2023 figure to the 2018-2022 average would not give a true reflection of how the latest quarter’s figures compare to the average.  Comparisons have therefore been made against the average of the five years 2017-2019 plus 2021-2022.

Since 2015 Q1 Scotland has been in a period of negative natural change (more deaths than births). For the latest four quarter period (2022 Q2 to 2023 Q1) there were 46,488 births and 65,284 deaths, a shortfall of 18,796 births compared to deaths. 

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]