Deaths: introduction

Scotland has one of the highest rates of death (mortality) in Western Europe, a phenomenon mirrored by the country's comparatively low life expectancy. Although mortality rates for the whole population have steadily decreased in recent years, there are considerable variations or inequalities in mortality rates and trends within Scotland across different geographical and socio-economic groupings.

In terms of policy context, mortality rates are relevant to the entire health improvement strategy of government (although life expectancy, and indeed healthy life expectancy, are arguably more useful indicators than simple mortality in this respect). Scotland Performs includes a national indicator to reduce premature mortality in the under 75s. 

The Scottish Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities, as part of their Equally Well (2008) strategy, made it a priority to tackle widening inequalities in death rates, in particular those among younger men related to problems due to drugs, alcohol and violence. An annual report monitors a number of mortality indicators to measure health inequalities over time (see the Long term monitoring of health inequalities report for 2015). The 2014 Health Inequalities Policy Review for the Task Force commented that 'Inequalities in mortality in Scotland are among the highest in Western and Central Europe, rising rapidly during the 1980s and 1990s; this situation is not inevitable and can be improved.'

Note that the main source of deaths data in Scotland (death registrations) is the National Records of Scotland.