Scotland excess deaths highest since 1940


Excess deaths in Scotland last year were at their highest level since 1940, new figures have revealed.


In 2020 there were 6,324 more deaths than compared to the average over the past five years.


Excess deaths are thought to be a more accurate representation of the true cost of the pandemic, as they include deaths from other causes such as cancer and Alzheimer’s that are not directly caused by covid-19.


The provisional estimate was provided by National Records of Scotland, which said that deaths over 2020 were 11% higher than expected.


The last time this was surpassed was during the Second World War in 1940, with the last highest peacetime total being recorded in 1891.


Analysis of the figures shows 93% of the people who died with covid-19 had at least one pre-existing condition.


The most common were dementia and Alzheimer’s, recorded in 28% of deaths.


Age Scotland has previously called for an investigation into rising deaths from the disease, warning they could be linked to cuts to social care.


Looking at death rates by income level, National Records of Scotland found people from the most deprived areas were more than twice as likely to die with covid-19.


Areas in the West of Scotland have been hardest hit, with Greater Glasgow and Clyde recording the highest death rate of all health boards; 254 per 100,000 people, followed by followed by Lanarkshire with 228 and Ayrshire and Arran on 172.


There are also questions about the support in place for people at the end of their lives.


Research by showed more people died at home than would normally be expected during the pandemic, across a range of non-covid conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stroke.


Pete Whitehouse, National Records Scotland Director of Statistical Services, said: “Assessing trends in death registrations is difficult at this time of year due to the impact of registration office closures over the Christmas period and the increased registration activity which occurs in the following weeks.


“Our analysis looking at deaths by date of occurrence provides a clearer picture of the trend and shows that deaths began to increase in mid-December and this has continued through the early part of January.


“This week’s report provides a provisional estimate of the number of excess deaths for the full year 2020.


“Deaths were 11% higher in 2020 than the average of the previous five years, representing the highest level of excess deaths since 1940.”


By Henry Anderson


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