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Demographic information about Scotland’s population

Today we’ve published ‘Scotland’s Population 2017 – The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends’, which summarises the key trends in Scotland’s population, alongside an infographic report.

How is Scotland’s population changing?

The population of Scotland is at its highest ever at 5.42 million. It has grown by 5% over the last 10 years. However, over the latest year, Scotland’s population has grown at a slower rate than that seen on average over the past 10 years, due to a reduction in net migration, increase in the number of deaths and decrease in the number of births. Scotland’s population is projected to grow to 5.58 million in 2026, and to continue rising to reach 5.69 million in 2041.

Migration is the main reason for Scotland’s population increase

Since 2000, Scotland’s population has increased mostly due to migration (more people arrived than left). In the latest year to mid-2017, 23,900 more people came to Scotland than left – made up of a net gain of 13,400 people from overseas and 10,500 people from the rest of the UK. Although it remains positive, net migration has reduced in the latest year.

In the future, Scotland’s population growth is projected to be entirely reliant on migration, as there are projected to be more deaths than births each year going forward.


Population change varies by council area in Scotland

Over the year to mid-2017, the population increased in 21 council areas of Scotland while 11 council areas experienced a decrease in their population. The areas with negative population growth are mainly on the west coast and around Aberdeen. The differences between councils are projected to keep growing, with a total of eight councils across Scotland projected to experience population decline over the 10 years to 2026.

To explore the data for your local area, refer to our Council Area Profiles and interactive data visualisations.

Scotland’s population is projected to age

Scotland’s population has continued to age over the past decade, and is projected to continue doing so. The fastest growing age group is projected to be those aged 75 and over, increasing by 79% between 2016 and 2041. This is followed by those aged 65 to 74, projected to grow by 17% over the same period. In contrast, the population of all age groups below age 65 are projected to decline. This has implications for funding allocations, tax revenues, pensions, education, health and social care provision.

Life expectancy in Scotland has improved over the past three decades, but has stalled in recent years

Life expectancy at birth has improved over the past three 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 (2014-2016) 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 estimates for 2015-2017 will be published on 25 September 2018.

Life expectancy varies within Scotland

There was a difference between life expectancy in the most and least deprived areas of Scotland. This was more pronounced for men (12.6 years) than for women (9.2 years) for those born around 2015. The gap in life expectancy between females and males was also larger in the most deprived areas (6.0 years) than in the least deprived areas (2.6 years).

The trend in mortality may be changing

There were 57,883 deaths in 2017 — 2% more than in 2016, and the highest number of deaths since 2003.

The age-standardised mortality rate has decreased by 27% since 1994 but increased by 0.6% in the last year. This offers a more accurate picture of the trend in deaths as it takes account of changes in the population structure and shows what the trend would be if the population structure had remained the same over time. There has been no improvement in the age-standardised death rate in the last three years, suggesting that we may be reaching a turning point, or a plateau, in the downward trend.

The leading causes of death have changed over time

The leading cause of death in 2017 was ischaemic heart disease (accounting for 11.6% of all deaths), closely followed by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (11.3%). The leading cause of death analysis is based on a list of causes developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are around 60 categories in total and cancers are grouped separately according to the type of cancer. If all cancers were grouped together, cancer would be the leading cause of death.


Burden of Disease

This year, the report contains an invited chapter written by analysts at NHS Health Scotland, which explores the concept of burden of disease. This is a measure of the health of a population, and the first time that Scotland-specific estimates have been calculated using the full range of data sources in Scotland. It allows an estimate of the contribution that different diseases, conditions and injuries make to the total burden of disease, due to premature mortality and time spent living in less than ideal health.

The number of households is increasing faster than the population

In Scotland, the number of households is projected to increase from 2.46 million in 2017 to 2.76 million by 2041. The number of households is increasing faster than the population, and average household sizes are falling, with one person households the most common type in Scotland (one third of all households). This is partly because Scotland’s population is ageing, and older people are more likely to live alone or in smaller households.


Other statistics

This is the 163rd edition of the Registrar General’s Annual Review. It also includes information about statutory registration, births, stillbirths, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships and other causes of death. Some of the key points from these are:

  • The number of births in Scotland continued to fall in 2017. There were 52,861 births registered in Scotland in 2017, 3% fewer births than in 2016 and 22% fewer births than in 1975.
  • In 2017, there were 28,440 marriages registered in Scotland, of which 982 (3.5%) were same-sex couples. The number of civil partnerships was 70, the same number as in 2016.
  • There were 5,022 more deaths than births registered in Scotland in 2017, a widening of the gap since 2016 when there were 2,240 more deaths than births.

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