Visualising and quantifying ‘excess deaths’ in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK and the rest of Western Europe

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Abstract

Background

Scotland has higher mortality rates than the rest of Western Europe (rWE), with more cardiovascular disease and cancer among older adults; and alcohol-related and drug-related deaths, suicide and violence among younger adults.

Methods

We obtained sex, age-specific and year-specific all-cause mortality rates for Scotland and other populations, and explored differences in mortality both visually and numerically.

Results

Scotland's age-specific mortality was higher than the rest of the UK (rUK) since 1950, and has increased. Between the 1950s and 2000s, ‘excess deaths’ by age 80 per 100 000 population associated with living in Scotland grew from 4341 to 7203 compared with rUK, and from 4132 to 8828 compared with rWE. UK-wide mortality risk compared with rWE also increased, from 240 ‘excess deaths’ in the 1950s to 2320 in the 2000s. Cohorts born in the 1940s and 1950s throughout the UK including Scotland had lower mortality risk than comparable rWE populations, especially for males. Mortality rates were higher in Scotland than rUK and rWE among younger adults from the 1990s onwards suggesting an age–period interaction.

Conclusions

Worsening mortality among young adults in the past 30 years reversed a relative advantage evident for those born between 1950 and 1960. Compared with rWE, Scotland and rUK have followed similar trends but Scotland has started from a worse position and had worse working age–period effects in the 1990s and 2000s.

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