Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Death rate at lowest ever level

Scotland’s death rate is continuing to fall and in 2005 there were 55,747 deaths – the lowest total since civil registration began in 1855. This was highlighted in the Registrar General for Scotland’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, published today.


Speaking at the launch of the 2005 Review of Scotland’s Population, Registrar General Duncan Macniven said:

“This year’s report looks in special detail at causes of death since 1855.

“Deaths from tuberculosis and other infectious diseases have declined dramatically since Victorian times. In 1855 tuberculosis accounted for 10,007 deaths, compared to 49 deaths in 2005.

“Good progress is being made in reducing the mortality from Scotland’s current three big killers – cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. But, while there has been a big decrease in the number of men dying from lung cancer, the female death rate is rising slightly. And the increased death toll from alcohol-related diseases is extremely worrying.

“My report also gives an overview of Scotland’s population and current demographic trends. Population rose last year for the third year running – by 16,400 to 5,094,800 – against the previous trend of slow decline from the early 1970s.

“This is partly because of a rise in the number of births – there were 54,386 in 2005, 429 more than in 2004, although this was a modest rise in comparison to the previous year’s increase of 1,525. The death rate again moved in the right direction in 2005. There were 55,747 deaths, 440 fewer than in 2004 and the lowest total recorded since the introduction of civil registration in 1855.

“However, the main reason for the increase in population was because in-migrants exceeded out-migrants by 19,000. That migration gain was lower than in the previous year, but was still the second highest since current records began in the early 1950s. The number of people coming to Scotland from the rest of the UK exceeded the number moving in the opposite direction by 12,500 – and net migration from the rest of the world totalled 7,300. For the second year running, in-migrants from the rest of the UK exceeded out-migrants in every age group.

“The biggest increases in population in the last 10 years were in West Lothian, East Lothian and Stirling. The largest decreases occurred in Eilean Siar, Aberdeen City and Inverclyde.

“Looking forward, Scotland’s population is projected to rise to 5.13 million in 2019 before falling below five million in 2036, reaching 4.86 million by 2044.

“The 30,881 marriages in Scotland in 2005 were 4 per cent fewer than in 2004 but around the same number as in 2003. A quarter of the marriages were ‘tourist weddings’ where neither the bride nor the groom was resident in Scotland, although there was a fall in this category from 9,710 in 2004 to 8,817 in 2005. Gretna continued to be the most popular location, accounting for about one in six of all marriages, and nearly half of ‘tourist weddings’.”

Other key points in the report are:


For the eighth year in a row, there were more deaths than births, although the difference of 2,300 was the smallest since 1998.

Scotland’s population in mid-2005 was slightly lower (0.2 per cent) than in mid-1995. While there were 10 per cent fewer people aged under 30, there were sharp increases for those aged 30 and over, particularly for those aged 45-59 and 75 & over (14 and 15 per cent, respectively).


47 per cent of births in 2005 were to unmarried parents, compared with 34 per cent in 1995.

In 2005, the average age of the mother at childbirth was 29.5, compared with 27.4 in 1991, 26.1 in 1977, and 27.4 in 1964.

The total fertility rate (TFR) rose to 1.62 in 2005, higher than the historic low of 1.48 in 2002, but much lower than the 1964 peak of 3.09 and the ‘replacement’ level of about 2.1.

The average completed family size for women born in 1971 was 1.06 by the time they reached 30 – for women born in 1951, the same figure was 1.67.


In 2005, the two most common causes of death were cancer (27 per cent of deaths) and coronary heart disease (19 per cent).

The total number of suicides and probable suicides (‘intentional self-harm’ and ‘undetermined’) in 2005 was 763, a fall of 72 on 2004.

There were 5.3 stillbirths per thousand births (live and still) in 2005, a reduction from 5.8 per thousand in 2004 and 13.1 per thousand in 1971.

A male baby born in 2004 could expect to live for 74.3 years and a female baby for 79.4 years – increases from 69.1 and 75.4 for those born in 1981.

For Scottish males, expectation of life is almost 1 year lower than the average for the EU (25 states) and, for females, it is almost 2 years lower.


Civil and religious marriages each accounted for around half of all marriages in 2005. In 1971, over two-thirds of marriages were religious.

Since June 2002, civil marriages can be held in ‘approved places’ outwith registration offices. In 2005, 7,055 civil ceremonies (23 per cent of all marriages and 45 per cent of civil marriages) were conducted at these ‘approved places’.

The percentage of people marrying who had previously been divorced rose from just under 6 per cent in 1971, to over a quarter in 2005


Between 2004 and 2024, the number of households is projected to increase by 13 per cent to 2.5 million – an average of 14,800 additional households per year.

Most of the projected increase in the number of households is the result of the ageing population and more people living alone or in smaller households, rather than an increase in the overall population. This is part of a longer-term trend – the average household size fell from over 3 people in the 1960s to 2.2 people by 2004, and is projected to fall below 2 people by 2024.

The largest projected increases are in small households with one and two adults, and there are projected decreases in the number of larger households, containing two or more adults with children, or three or more adults.

The number of households headed by someone aged 60 or over is projected to increase by over a third between 2004 and 2024, to nearly a million, whereas the number of households headed by someone aged under 60 is projected to increase by just two per cent, to around 1.5 million.

Causes of death

The death rate in Scotland has fallen from 21 deaths per 1,000 population in 1855 to 11 in 2005.

The number of deaths of children aged under 5 fell from 22,671 in 1855 to 344 in 2005.

In 1855, 493 mothers died in childbirth or from causes associated with pregnancy, compared to 4 in 2005.

Deaths from infectious diseases declined dramatically during the twentieth century. The number of deaths from whooping cough and measles fell from 1,903 and 1,180 respectively in 1855 to zero in 2005.

The influenza pandemic in 1918-19 is estimated to have claimed more than 22,000 lives in Scotland.

Death rates from circulatory diseases peaked in the 1950s, when this grouping of diseases accounted for over 50 per cent of all deaths in Scotland. In 2005, they accounted for 36 per cent of deaths.

Cancer now accounts for the greatest number of deaths and lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths. For men, the annual death rate rose sharply to a peak in the 1970s before falling ever since. For women, by contrast, the rate was lower and increased more gradually until the mid-1990s but has not reduced significantly since then.

Alcohol-related deaths significantly increased from the early 1990s, particularly among men aged 45-59.

The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends is available from the General Register Office for Scotland (ISBN 1-874451-75-3) and the GROS website:

Further detailed statistical tables are available on the GROS website.

source-Scottish Executive

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