Gap between births and deaths widens

There were 7,195 more deaths than births registered in Scotland in 2018 according to figures released by National Records of Scotland.

There were 7,195 more deaths than births registered in Scotland in 2018 – a wider gap than in 2017 which had 5,022 more deaths than births, according to figures released today by National Records of Scotland.

These figures represent the fourth year running where there have been more deaths than births in Scotland. Decreasing births and increasing deaths means that the gap is widening.

The publication, Vital Events Reference Tables 2018, shows that at 58,503, the number of deaths registered was 1.1 per cent higher than in 2017, and the highest annual total since 1999. The number of births registered was 51,308, a decrease of 1,553 (2.9 per cent) on 2017 levels and the lowest annual total since 2002.

There were 27,525 marriages in 2018, a decrease of 915 (3.2 per cent) on 2017. Of these, 979 were same sex marriages. There were 65 civil partnerships, five fewer than the previous year.

There were 190 stillbirths (3.7 per 1,000 live and still births), representing the lowest stillbirth rate ever recorded. There were 163 infant deaths (3.2 per 1,000 live births) – equalling the previous lowest ever infant death rate which was recorded in 2015.

The leading cause of death in 2018 was ischaemic heart disease, which accounted for 11.3 per cent of all deaths, closely followed by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease which accounted for 11.1 per cent of all deaths. Lung cancer was the third most common cause, accounting for 6.8 per cent of all deaths. These were also the leading causes of death in 2017.

Compared with 2017:
• Grouping all types of cancer together, the number of deaths rose by 0.3 per cent to 16,256;
• Deaths from respiratory diseases increased by 4.0 per cent (to 7,128);
• The number of deaths from ischaemic heart disease fell by 1.7 per cent to 6,615;
• The number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease fell by 1.0 per cent to 6,484;
• There were 3,831 deaths from cerebrovascular disease (a decrease of 2.4 per cent);

NRS has also published deaths by specific causes which showed that in 2018:
• There were 1,136 alcohol-specific deaths, 1 per cent more than in 2017;
• There were 2,512 accidental deaths, an increase of 7 per cent compared with 2017;
• There were 784 probable suicides, 15 per cent more than the previous year.
• Slightly over a quarter (28 per cent) of all deaths registered in Scotland were from causes which (subject to age limits) are considered potentially avoidable (either through public health interventions or timely and effective healthcare). This proportion has been broadly similar for the last five years.
• Age-standardised death rates (which take account of changes to the population size and structure) remained fairly stable between 2017 and 2018 for all ages (a change of less than one per cent) whilst there was an increase of two per cent in the age-standardised death rate for under 75s.

Paul Lowe, the Registrar General for Scotland, said:

“The latest figures consolidate recent trends with births continuing to fall and the number of deaths increasing. The age-standardised death rate (which takes account of the growing and ageing population) shows a change in the long-term trend around 2012. After decreasing steadily over recent decades, there has been little change in the death rate since this point in time.”

Notes to Editors

1. National Records of Scotland (NRS) is responsible for producing statistics on Scotland’s population.

2. The full publications, Vital Events Reference Tables 2018 and Deaths by Specific Causes are available on the NRS website.

3. From January 2017, NRS introduced new software for coding the cause of death. The impact on the figures is relatively minor but has led to an increase in deaths coded to dementia and Alzheimer’s and a decrease in deaths coded to respiratory diseases. It should be noted that deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s were rising before the new software was introduced, but the impact of the software change further increases deaths from these causes. More information can be found in the paper ‘The Impact of the Implementation of IRIS Software for ICD-10 Cause of Death Coding on Mortality Statistics in Scotland’ on the NRS website.

Media enquiries should be directed to:

Julie Ramsay: 0131 314 4330

Further information about the statistics is available from:
Customer Services
National Records of Scotland
Ladywell House
Ladywell Road
Edinburgh EH12 7TF

Tel: 0131 314 4299
E-mail: statisticscustomerservices@

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