National Records of Scotland

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Vital Events Reference Tables 2017

Vital Events Reference Tables 2017


27 June 2018

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These tables give the numbers of Vital Events for 2017. They provide the same kinds of information as was contained in the pre-2001 Registrar General's Annual Reviews (available on this website), plus additional details that have been added in recent years. The tables are grouped into seven sections: Summary; Adoptions and re-registrations; Births; Stillbirths and infant deaths; Deaths; Deaths by cause; and Marriages and Civil Partnerships. In almost all cases, the tables give the numbers of vital events which were registered in Scotland in the calendar year. Some tables also provide figures for earlier years, and/or annual averages for 5-year periods. Most of the figures are for Scotland as a whole, but some tables provide statistics for each Local Authority and each NHS Board area.

There are no figures for Divorces and Dissolutions of Civil Partnerships in these Reference Tables, because the Scottish Government is now the only publisher of new statistics of Divorces and Dissolutions for Scotland. More information about the publication of such statistics is available within the Vital Events Divorces and Dissolutions section of this website.

Almost all the tables which contain population-based rates (e.g. birth rates, fertility rates and death rates) for earlier years were replaced on 19 February 2014 by versions giving revised rates for the years from 2002 to 2011 which were calculated using the 'rebased' mid-year population estimates. More information about this is available from the Births and Deaths Rates: breaks in series circa 2011 section on this website.

Main Points
  • 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;
  • There were 57,883 deaths registered in 2017, 1,155 (2.0 per cent) more than in 2016;
  • The number of births registered was 52,861, a decrease of 1,627 (3.0 per cent) on 2016 levels;
  • There were 28,440 marriages in 2017, a decrease of 789 (2.7 per cent) on 2016.  Of these, 982 were same sex marriages (a fall of 1.6 per cent since 2016).  There were 70 civil partnerships, the same number as in the previous year;
  • There were 225 stillbirths (4.2 per 1,000 live and still births) and 176 infant deaths (3.3 per 1,000 live births) – representing the third and second lowest rates ever with the lowest rates being observed in 2015;
  • The leading cause of death in 2017 was ischaemic heart disease, which accounted for 11.6 per cent of all deaths, closely followed by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease which accounted for 11.3 per cent of all deaths.  Lung cancer was the third most common cause, accounting for 7.0 per cent of all deaths. 

Compared with 2016:

  • Grouping all types of cancer together, the number of deaths rose by 1.9 per cent to 16,207;
  • Deaths from respiratory diseases fell by 6.1 per cent (by 442 to 6,854);
  • The number of deaths from ischaemic heart disease rose by 0.4 per cent to 6,727;
  • The number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease rose by 17.6 per cent to 6,549 (although part of this increase will be due to a change in methodology – refer to paper on this website);
  • There were 3,927 deaths from cerebrovascular disease (a decrease of 5.2 per cent);

Detailed commentary on the statistics contained within the Vital Events Reference Tables will be available in due course in the relevant chapters of 'Scotland's Population - the Registrar General's Annual Review of Demographic Trends'


This is an annual publication. National Records of Scotland (NRS) collects the underlying data on a daily basis, as and when each event is registered. These are the final statistics for the latest year, and as such are all new (although provisional versions of some of them appeared in the quarterly births, deaths and other vital events publications, which have now been superseded). The previously-published final figures for earlier years are very rarely revised.

Information about (e.g.) the sources, methods, definitions and reliability of these statistics is available from this website's pages on Vital Events - General Background Information, Births - Background information, Marriages and Civil Partnerships - Background Information, and Deaths - Background Information.

These figures are directly comparable with those for other parts of the United Kingdom (UK), there are no significant differences across the UK in how Vital Events data are collected and processed.

Statistics of deaths for the calendar year as a whole are (or were) used in some Scottish Government targets, such as reductions in the numbers of suicides and in the age-standardised death rates, of people under 75, from ischaemic (coronary) heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke) and cancer: Scottish Government reports (or used to report) on progress towards such targets. The numbers of births and deaths are used to update estimates of life expectancy and the size of the population, for which there are also government targets. More generally, Vital Events statistical data are used for research into, and to develop and monitor policies on, a wide range of topics, including: fertility; stillbirths and infant deaths; alcohol- and drug- related deaths; suicides; deaths from healthcare associated infections; the effectiveness of cancer screening programmes; cancer survival rates; hospital standardised mortality rates; and the arrangements for certifying deaths.

Click on the section below for more information on relevant statistics

Vital Events Reference Tables 2017 - All Tables (Excel 1 MB)

Notes and Definitions (Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF)) (140 KB)

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This is an annual publication.

The dates of future publications will be announced on our Future Publications page.

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