Health

Winter deaths in Scotland drop by 13%

Last winter, 20,188 deaths were registered in Scotland, 2,965 (13%) fewer than the previous winter, according to figures released this week by National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Between December 2018 and March 2019, the seasonal increase in deaths was 2,060, 57% less than the previous winter (2017-18, which had the highest number of deaths since winter 1999-2000).

The seasonal increase of 2,060 in winter 2018-19 was the seventh lowest in the 68 winters (back to 1951-52) for which such figures are available.  The latest 19 winters have had eight out of the ten lowest seasonal increases ever recorded.  

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

Paul Lowe, 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 generally been downward.

“The increase seen last winter was less than half of that in the previous year. However, the five-year moving annual average, which smoothes out much of the year-to-year fluctuation, continues to be above the level seen since the early 2000s.

“Its calculation includes the winters of 2014-15 and 2017-18, which had unusually high seasonal increases, so it is too soon to say whether there has been a change in the long-term trend.”

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