Scotland’s winter death toll highest for more than 30 years, figures show

Deaths increased 11 per cent on the previous winter
There were 24,427 deaths registered between December 2022 and March 2023 Image: Jeff Moore/Press Association.There were 24,427 deaths registered between December 2022 and March 2023 Image: Jeff Moore/Press Association.
There were 24,427 deaths registered between December 2022 and March 2023 Image: Jeff Moore/Press Association.

Scotland’s winter death toll last year was the highest for more than 30 years, figures show.

There were 24,427 deaths registered between December 2022 and March 2023, data from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed – 11% more than the previous winter, with this total the highest it has been since 1989-90.

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This included a total of 4,137 additional winter deaths – the seasonal increase in mortality that occurs between December and March.

This is calculated by comparing the death total for this period with the average number of deaths for August to November and April to July – the two four-month periods immediately before and after the winter.

This seasonal increase in mortality was “considerably higher” for 2022-23 than the previous year, NRS said, but was lower than both the winters of 2017-18 and 2020-21.

Daniel Burns, NRS’s head of vital events statistics, said: “Today’s figures show that deaths in winter are at their highest level since 1989-90.”

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He added: “The longer-term downward trend shows a recent increase in winter deaths, which may be partly driven by Scotland’s ageing population.

“Winter months generally see more deaths than other times of the year, however, the seasonal increase in winter mortality fluctuates year on year.

“Older age groups are consistently the most affected by increased mortality in winter. For people aged 85 and over, there were 29% more winter deaths compared to 12% in the under-65 population.”

However, Labour said the “devastating” number of deaths last winter was linked to the “twin crises engulfing Scotland”, blaming both problems in the NHS and “soaring bills” for the increase.

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Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Last winter our health and social care system was on the brink of collapse while soaring bills forced people to make impossible choices between heating and eating.

“Both of Scotland’s governments were missing in action during the most deadly winter in 30 years – the SNP and the Tories must both act now to ensure this catastrophe doesn’t repeat itself.”