Winter Mortality in Scotland – 2016/17

New figures show that a total of 20,930 deaths were registered across Scotland from December 2016 to March 2017, compared with 20,509 in the previous winter (2015/16).

New figures released today by National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that a total of 20,930 deaths were registered across Scotland from December 2016 to March 2017, compared with 20,509 in the previous winter (2015/16). 

The seasonal difference was 2,720 for winter 2016/17, slightly lower than the corresponding figure of 2,850 for winter 2015/16.  

The seasonal increase of 2,720 in winter 2016/17 was smaller than in most of the 65 previous winters, but it was still above the level seen in five of the previous ten winters. NRS statistics show that mortality can fluctuate markedly from winter to winter: occasionally one year will have an unusually large figure, like the 4,060 for winter 2014/15.   

Commenting on these statistics, Tim Ellis, 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 five-year moving average (which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation) has not changed much since the early 2000s.

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


  1. "Winter Mortality in Scotland - 2016/17" 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.  
  2. 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, 18,335 deaths were registered in the four-month period preceding winter 2016/17, and 18,095 in the four-month period following it.  The average of those numbers is 18,215, and the difference between it and the figure of 20,930 deaths registered in the four winter months of 2016/17 is 2,720 (when rounded to the nearest ten).
  3. 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.    


Back to top