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Winter Mortality in Scotland - 2014-15

Published: 20 Oct 2015 09:30

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

Registered deaths in Scotland in winter 2014/15 were at their highest level since winter 1999/2000.

Statistics released today by the National Records of Scotland show that 22,011 deaths were registered from December 2014 to March 2015. This was in contrast to the previous winter (2013/14), when 18,675 deaths were registered (which was the lowest number in all the 64 winters for which such statistics are available).

The 22,011 deaths registered in the four winter months of 2014/15 exceeded both the 17,493 deaths in the preceding four-month period and the 18,402 deaths in the following four-month period.

The seasonal difference (comparing the four winter months with the average of the four-month periods before and after the winter, and rounding the result) was 4,060 for winter 2014/15. This was 2,460 more than the corresponding figure of 1,600 for winter 2013/14 (which was the second lowest value in the 64 winters: the 1,420 for winter 2011/12 was the lowest). It was also the largest seasonal increase since the 5,190 for winter 1999/2000.

However, the last fifteen winters have had seven out of the ten lowest seasonal increases in the 64 winters for which figures are available. National Records of Scotland statistics show that mortality can fluctuate markedly from winter to winter: occasionally one year will have an unusually large figure, like winter 2014/15.

Commenting on 'Winter Mortality in Scotland - 2014/15', Tim Ellis, Chief Executive of the National Records of Scotland, said:

"There are always more deaths in the winter in Scotland than in any other season. Unfortunately, last winter had an unusually high seasonal increase, when compared with the previous fourteen winters.

"Looking at our figures, which go back to 1951/52, the long-term trend has clearly been downward. Despite the latest winter's unusually high figure, the five-year moving average (which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation) is at its second lowest ever level.

"There is no single cause of additional deaths in winter. Very few are caused by hypothermia and only a small proportion 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."

Notes to editors

1. The report "Winter Mortality in Scotland - 2014/15" is available on the Web site via: http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events/deaths/winter-mortality

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 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).

3. The report 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 area and each Local Authority area are provided for the latest ten winters onwards. A chart which shows how the seasonal increase in mortality, and the 5-year moving average, have tended (in general) to decline since winter 1951/52 - and that there have been some considerable year-to-year fluctuations.

4. Information about the numbers of deaths from different causes is given in the Vital Events Reference Tables (available via http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events/vital-events-reference-tables ). Paragraph 3.5 of the report explains that, in most years, there are only a few deaths for which the underlying cause is recorded as influenza. Further statistics on births, deaths and other vital events, produced by NRS, can be accessed via: http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events

5. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff. All National Records of Scotland's statistics can be accessed via http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data