14 August 2020

Death Trends in the UK

The dataset Vital statistics in the UK: births, deaths and marriages at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/vitalstatisticspopulationandhealthreferencetables shows surprising trends for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1887 to 2018.

For deaths, the chart below shows annual deviation from the long-term mean as a percentage.

All three show a decrease in deaths until about 1930.  This perhaps reflects an improvement in sanitation, medical services and general quality of life. It's more marked for Northern Ireland than Scotland and for Scotland more than England and Wales.

There a period of relative stability from 1930 to 1950.

From 1950 until 2010 all three show a hump-back pattern peaking around 1975. This perhaps reflects the evolution of population age.

For all three the number of deaths has been increasing in the most recent years.

The year-to-year variation is larger before 1950 than afterwards. Could that be the result of the National Health Sevice?

The peak of the 1918 influenza pandemic deaths stands out. Peaks of deaths in 1940 (air attack, the Blitz) and 1951 (influenza, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3294686/ ) are the next most prominent.

All else being equal you'd expect deaths to increase with population. Over the 20th century, England and Wales saw an 80% population increase; Scotland and Northern Ireland about 25%.

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