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

THE number of deaths registered in Scotland between December 2022 and March 2023 was 24,427 representing the highest number of winter deaths in over thirty years, according to statistics published by National Records of Scotland today.

Between December 2021 and March 2022 22,055 deaths were recorded.

In the Scottish Borders 559 deaths were recorded up from 524 the previous year 2021/22.

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In 2020/21 that number was 505, in 2019/20 it was 509 and in 2018/19 it was 455.

Only twice in the last 13-years has that figure been surpassed, in 2017/18 when 570 deaths were recorded and 2014/15 when that figure was 569.

The statistics also show a seasonal increase of additional deaths in winter, from December to March, compared with the non-winter periods.

In the preceding three month 524 deaths were recorded in the region and in the following three months 455 deaths were recorded.

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Daniel Burns, Head of Vital Events Statistics at National Records of Scotland, said: “Today’s figures show that deaths in winter are at their highest level since 1989/90.

“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.”

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The cause of death with the largest seasonal increase was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 640 additional deaths.

There were 310 additional deaths as a result of COVID-19 during this time.

Since 2019, fewer than ten deaths per year were directly due to cold weather, for example hypothermia.

Campaigners at Age Scotland said the scale of deaths last year was “extremely concerning”.

A spokesperson for the charity added: “The combination of the cost-of-living crisis, pressures on health and social care services, and spikes in flu and Covid-19 have had a severe impact, particularly on older people.

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“We’re aware that many older people have faced difficulty accessing the health and social care they need, which may have led to conditions becoming more severe due to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

“Many have also struggled to meet the increasing cost of heating their homes to a safe level, increasing the risk of serious medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with all those who have lost a loved one.

“While seasonal variations in winter mortality fluctuate year-on-year, it is well known that Scotland’s communities experience health, quality of life and even life expectancy differently across our society.

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“Scotland’s new dementia strategy sets out a 10-year vision for dementia in Scotland. It recognises there are inequalities in who experiences dementia and the importance of people being able to access a timely diagnosis, and post-diagnostic support that is right for them and their carers.

“Our Heart Disease Action Plan outlines the actions we are taking to minimise preventable heart disease and ensure that everyone with suspected heart disease has timely and equitable access to diagnosis treatment and care.

“We continue to work with our partners, including Public Health Scotland and National Records of Scotland, to understand what is needed at a national and regional level to support local, preventative action to drive improvements in population health.”