National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Excess Winter Mortality in Scotland, 2005/06

Excess Winter Mortality in Scotland, 2005/06

27 October 2006


Table 1 summarises recent trends for Scotland. Provisional data show that there were some 1,790 excess deaths in Scotland during the winter of 2005/06. This is almost 1,000 fewer than during the previous winter and is about one third of the total in 1999/2000, the last time influenza activity was at a high level. Table 1 also shows the extent to which the excess mortality affects the elderly, particularly those aged 75 and over.

Chart 1 shows that there has been a downward trend in the number of excess deaths in winter over the last 50 years, though there have been a number of years with relatively high peaks. Generally, these peaks coincide with periods of high influenza activity. Table 2 gives the underlying figures for Chart 1.

Table 3 gives a more detailed data breakdown by age and National Health Service (NHS) Board area (as at 1 April 2006 following the dissolution of NHS Argyll & Clyde).

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Table 1   

Excess winter mortality by age group, Scotland, 1990/91 to 2005/06
(Excel    CSV    PDF)

Table 2   

Excess winter mortality, Scotland, 1951/52 to 2005/06
(Excel    CSV    PDF)

Table 3   

Excess Winter mortality and excess winter mortality index, by age group and NHS Board area of usual residence, 1999/2000 to 2005/06
(Excel    CSV    PDF)

Chart 1  

Excess Winter mortality, Scotland, 1951/52 to 2005/06
(Excel    PDF)


Many studies have shown that mortality levels in Scotland are markedly higher in winter months than summer months. Moreover, there are indications that this excess winter mortality has been relatively high in Scotland (and the rest of the UK) when compared with many countries with more extreme winter climates, though UK levels are comparable to several southern European countries (e.g. Greece, Italy, Spain) and lower than those recorded in Portugal and the Republic of Ireland. Whilst a number of theories have been advanced to explain these observations, there is as yet no consensus on the underlying mechanisms involved.

In 2002, we published an Occasional Paper entitled ‘The Raised Incidence of Winter Deaths ’.  As well as reviewing the various definitions used to assess the extent of excess winter mortality, this paper showed that additional winter deaths were particularly associated with respiratory and circulatory diseases and that few deaths were caused by hypothermia. It also demonstrated that, though not all excess winter mortality is related to influenza, there was a clear link between excess winter deaths and the level of influenza activity.

Useful Link

See the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website for data on excess winter mortality covering England and Wales