Winter deaths: 2017/18 highest since 1999/2000

A total of 23,137 deaths were registered across Scotland from December 2017 to March 2018, (winter 2017/18) compared with 20,946 in the previous winter (2016/17).

Figures released today by National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that a total of 23,137 deaths were registered across Scotland from December 2017 to March 2018, (winter 2017/18) compared with 20,946 in the previous winter (2016/17).  It was the largest number since 23,379 deaths were registered in winter 1999/2000. 

The seasonal increase in mortality - the number of ‘additional’ deaths in the winter (compared with the average for the periods before and after it) - was 4,800 for winter 2017/18.  This was 2,070 more than the corresponding figure of 2,730 for winter 2016/17, and the largest such figure since 5,190 in winter 1999/2000.  NRS statistics show that winter mortality can fluctuate from one year to the next, with some years seeing unusually large seasonal increases, such as the 4,060 in winter 2014/15.   

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

Commenting on these statistics, Anne Slater, 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 clearly been downward.  However, the average value for the latest five years (which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation) is now above the level that had applied since the early 2000s.  It is too soon to say whether there has been a change in the long-term trend: it could just be a short-term rise, like that seen roughly 20 years ago, after which the average fell for several years.”

Also today, NRS expanded the alcohol-specific deaths section of its website to provide figures for each year from 1979 to 1999, and the age-standardised death rates section to provide alcohol-specific death rates for those years.

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.
  1. The full ‘Winter Mortality’ publication is available from the NRS website. It  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 1951/52. Statistics showing the effect on different age groups for each NHS Board and Local Authority area are provided for the latest ten winters.
  1. 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, 18,694 deaths were registered in the four-month period preceding winter 2017/18, and 17,986 in the four-month period following it.  The average of those numbers is 18,340, and the difference between it and the figure of 23,137 deaths registered in the four winter months of 2017/18 is 4,800 (when rounded to the nearest ten).
  1. Information about the numbers of deaths from different causes is given in the Vital Events Reference Tables . Paragraph 3.7 of the report explains that, in most years, there are only a few deaths for which the underlying cause is recorded as influenza.  See further statistics on NRS births, deaths and other vital events.
  1. 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:  

                        Frank Dixon of National Records of Scotland     

                        Direct line :    0131 314 4229


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

                        Simon Ebbett of Scottish Government Communications

                        Direct line:     0131 244 3400


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



Media enquiries


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