Fewer deaths in winter 2018-19

A National Statistics publication for Scotland.

Last winter, 20,188 deaths were registered in Scotland, 2,965 (13%) fewer than the previous winter, according to figures released today by National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Between December 2018 and March 2019, the seasonal increase in deaths was 2,060, 57% less than the previous winter (2017-18, which had the highest number of deaths since winter 1999-2000).

The seasonal increase of 2,060 in winter 2018-19 was the seventh lowest in the 68 winters (back to 1951-52) for which such figures are available.  The latest 19 winters have had eight out of the ten lowest seasonal increases ever recorded.  

There is no single cause of ‘additional’ deaths in winter. The underlying causes of most winter  deaths include circulatory system diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke, respiratory system diseases such as influenza, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Very few are caused by hypothermia.

Commenting on these statistics, Paul Lowe, Chief Executive of NRS, said:

"There are always more deaths in the winter in Scotland than in any other season, but the long-term trend since the early 1950s has generally been downward. The increase seen last winter was less than half of that in the previous year. However, the five-year moving annual average, which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation, continues to be above the level seen since the early 2000s. Its calculation includes the winters of 2014-15 and 2017-18, which had unusually high seasonal increases, so it is too soon to say whether there has been a change in the long-term trend.”

Notes To Editors

  1. National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics of Scotland’s population, including the numbers of births, marriages and civil partnerships, and deaths from various causes.  

  2. The full ‘Winter Mortality’ publication shows the seasonal increase in mortality recorded each winter in Scotland since 1990-91, broken down by age group, and the overall figures back to 1951- Statistics showing the effect on different age groups for each NHS Board and Local Authority area are provided for the latest ten winters. 

  3. For the purpose of these statistics, the seasonal increase in mortality in the winter is defined as the difference between the number of deaths registered in the four-month "winter" period (December to March, inclusive) and the average of the numbers in the two four-month periods which precede winter (August-November) and which follow winter (April-July).  For example, 17,864 deaths were registered in the four-month period preceding winter 2018-19, and 18,398 in the four-month period following it.  The average of those numbers is 18,131, and the difference between it and the figure of 20,188 deaths registered in the four winter months of 2018-19 is 2,060 (when rounded to the nearest ten).

  4. Paragraph 3.7 of the report explains that, in most years, influenza is the underlying cause of only a small fraction of the seasonal increase in mortality. Information about the numbers of deaths from different causes is given in NRS’s Vital Events Reference Tables .

  5. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff.  General information about NRS’s statistics can be found in the About our Statistics section of its website.


Media enquiries about these statistics should be made to:  

                    Sheena Maguire of NRS Communications    

                    Direct line :   0131 535 1411

                    E-mail:      communications@nrscotland.gov.uk

Media enquiries about other matters (e.g. Scottish Government policies) should be made to:  

                     Louise Aitken of Scottish Government Communications    

                     Direct line :   0131 244 7757

                     E-mail:      louise.aitken@gov.scot

Further information about the statistics is available from:

Statistics Customer Services, National Records of Scotland

Ladywell House, Ladywell Road, Edinburgh EH12 7TF

Tel: 0131 314 4299

E-mail: StatisticsCustomerServices@nrscotland.gov.uk 

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