There were almost 16,000 more deaths than births registered in Scotland in 2022, according to new figures released by National Records of Scotland.
Provisional figures show there were 62,942 deaths but only 46,959 births.
The latest figures for October to December show there were 16,856 deaths, 9.3% higher than the five-year average for this time of year.
There were increases in the number of deaths across a range of causes including respiratory diseases which were 8.7% higher at 1,900. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) was the underlying cause of 353 deaths during this quarter. No deaths were registered where the underlying cause was adverse effects of a COVID-19 vaccine.
There were 11,899 births registered in Scotland in this period, which is 4.9% fewer than the quarter four average.
Julie Ramsay, Vital Events Statistician at National Records of Scotland, said: “The gap between deaths and births continues the period of negative natural change, where the number of deaths outnumbers the number of births, which began in 2015. Having fewer births than deaths in a population is referred to as ‘negative natural change’ meaning that without external factors such as migration, the population will fall.”
The number of stillbirths (44) was 4.3% lower than the quarter four average and the number of infant deaths (42) was 3.7% below average.
The report, Births, Deaths and other Vital Events Quarter 4, also shows 6,370 couples married in Scotland, nearly 3% more than the recent average.
There were also 169 civil partnerships, 141 of which were for mixed sex couples. There were 28 same-sex civil partnerships, compared with a five year average of 20.
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