Statistical News Release

5,000 more deaths than births in 2017.

There were 5,022 more deaths than births registered in Scotland in 2017, a widening of the gap since 2016 when there were 2,240 more deaths than births, according to figures released today by National Records of Scotland.

The publication, Vital Events Reference Tables 2017, shows that at 57,883, the number of deaths registered was 1,155 (2.0 per cent) more than in 2016 and the number of births registered was 52,861, a decrease of 1,627 (3.0 per cent) on 2016 levels.

There were 28,440 marriages in 2017, a decrease of 789 (2.7 per cent) on 2016. Of these, 982 were same sex marriages (a fall of 1.6 per cent since 2016).  There were 70 civil partnerships, the same number as in the previous year.

There were 225 stillbirths (4.2 per 1,000 live and still births) and 176 infant deaths (3.3 per 1,000 live births) – representing the third and second lowest rates ever with the lowest rates being observed in 2015.

The leading cause of death in 2017 was ischaemic heart disease, which accounted for 11.6 per cent of all deaths, closely followed by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease which accounted for 11.3 per cent of all deaths. Lung cancer was the third most common cause, accounting for 7.0 per cent of all deaths.

Compared with 2016:

  • Grouping all types of cancer together, the number of deaths rose by 1.9 per cent to 16,207;
  • Deaths from respiratory diseases fell by 6.1 per cent (by 442 to 6,854);
  • The number of deaths from ischaemic heart disease rose by 0.4 per cent to 6,727;
  • The number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease rose by 17.6 per cent to 6,549 (although part of this increase will be due to a change in methodology – refer to note below);
  • There were 3,927 deaths from cerebrovascular disease (a decrease of 5.2 per cent); NRS also published deaths by specific causes which showed that in 2017:
  •  There were 1,120 alcohol-specific deaths, 2 per cent fewer than in 2016 but more than in than each of the four previous years;
  • There were 2,348 accidental deaths, an increase of 6 per cent compared with 2016;
  • There were 680 probable suicides, seven per cent fewer than the previous year.
  • Slightly over a quarter 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).
  • Age-standardised death rates (which take account of changes to the population size and structure) rose by one per cent between 2016 and 2017 for all ages whilst there was a decrease of three per cent in the age-standardised death rate for under 75s.

Anne Slater, the Acting Registrar General for Scotland, said:

“With a growing and ageing population, it may be expected that the number of deaths will increase. The age-standardised death rate adjusts for changes to the population structure and has had a greater decrease over time than the number of deaths.  However, there has been no improvement in the age-standardised death rate in the last three years, suggesting that we may be reaching a turning point, or a plateau in the long-term downward trend in mortality.”


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

The full publications, Vital Events Reference Tables 2017 and Deaths by Specific Causes are available on the NRS website.

From January 2017, NRS has 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.

Back to top