National Records of Scotland (NRS) today publishesScotland’s Population 2016 – the Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends’, alongside an infographic booklet which summarises the key trends in Scotland’s population.

Tim Ellis, the Registrar General of Scotland, said:

“The population of Scotland is at its highest ever at 5.4 million. It has grown by 5% over the last 10 years. The majority of this growth has been due to migration as natural change (births minus deaths) has not contributed significantly to Scotland’s population growth.

“Most recently, 31,700 more people came to Scotland than left (net migration over the year to 30 June 2016) – made up of a net gain of 22,900 people from overseas and 8,800 people from the rest of the UK. The majority of migrants to Scotland are young, with 52% aged 18 to 32 years.

“Overall Scotland’s population has continued to age over the past decade, with the greatest increases in the population in the older age groups. Over the next 25 years, there is a projected increase of 28% in the number of pensioners in Scotland, compared to an increase of just 1% in the number of people of working age. This has implications for funding allocations, tax revenues, pensions, education, health and social care provision.”


Scotland’s population is projected to age
Scotland’s population is projected to age

 The report is a compendium that brings together key demographic information from a range of publications produced by NRS. It has been produced every year since 1855. It covers population, births, deaths, life expectancy, migration, marriages and civil partnerships, adoptions, households and housing.

Causes of death

There has been a long-term downward trend in overall numbers of deaths. This has slowed in recent years, partly due to the growing and ageing population.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, there have been changes in the underlying causes of death. Deaths from circulatory diseases have declined over this period; in particular coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease (including strokes), which fell by 46% and 39% respectively.  Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have more than doubled since 2000 and have now overtaken deaths from cerebrovascular disease. This is partly because people are living longer, and fewer people are dying from other conditions such as circulatory diseases. However, the single biggest cause of death is still cancer, which has risen by 6% between 2000 and 2016.


registered deaths by main cause of death
Deaths from circulatory diseases decreased whilst deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s increased



Life expectancy

Life expectancy at birth has improved over the past 3 decades and the gap between males and females is decreasing. However, the pace of increasing life expectancy has slowed over recent years and the latest estimates show life expectancy for men and women have remained unchanged in both Scotland and the UK. Life expectancy in Scotland is lower than the other UK constituent countries and lower than any other country in Western Europe, for both males and females.

Life expectancy also varies widely within Scotland. The highest life expectancy for males in Scotland is for East Dunbartonshire, with those born around 2014 expected to live for 80.5 years. This is 7.1 years higher than Glasgow City which has the lowest life expectancy for males at 73.4 years. For females, East Dunbartonshire also has the highest life expectancy (83.5 years); 4.8 years more than West Dunbartonshire which has the lowest council area life expectancy of 78.7 years.

Households and housing

The number of households in Scotland is increasing faster than the population, and average household sizes are falling. This is partly because Scotland’s population is ageing, and older people are more likely to live alone or with just one other person. This year, the report contains an invited chapter written by Prof Elspeth Graham, Dr Francesca Fiori and Dr Kim McKee. They review recent changes in household composition and housing provision in Scotland and discuss the complex relationships between the two. They include new analysis of the housing patterns of young adults and older adults, and analysis of interviews with young adults aged 18-35.

Other demographic statistics

The report is accompanied by an update on a wide range of other statistics on births, stillbirths, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths, which appear in the Vital Events Reference Tables and in website sections on deaths from certain causes. Some of the key points from these are:

  • There were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016; an increase of 115 (10%) compared with 2015. Following a largely downward trend since the mid-2000s, increases in three of the past four years may suggest a change in the direction of the trend.
  • There were 728 probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2016, 56 (8%) more than in the previous year. The longer-term trend in probable suicides has been decreasing since 2000.
  • A new website section on ‘avoidable mortality’ has been added and shows that slightly over a quarter of all deaths registered in Scotland are classed as “avoidable”. These results should be interpreted with caution and after reading the background notes available on our website

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