Scotland saw record fall in life expectancy during Covid pandemic

SCOTLAND saw a record fall in life expectancy last year because of the Covid pandemic.

National Records of Scotland said the average life expectancy at birth for males fell by 17.6 weeks to 76.8 years, and by 6.1 weeks to 81 years for females. 

The figures for 2018-2020 represent the biggest annual decrease since the estimates began in 1980-1982.

The NRS said Covid-19 deaths accounted for the “vast majority” of the fall in life expectancy for both men and women, with drug-related deaths also a significant factor in reducing male life expectancy. 

Over the latest year, life expectancy has fallen in all UK countries, with Scotland having the lowest life expectancy at birth of the four nations.

Average life expectancy in the UK was 79 years for males and 82.9 years for females. 

The figures are not a prediction of how long someone will live, but summarise the health of the population at a point in time.


The NRS said deprivation continues to have an impact, with the gap between rich and poor getting wider in Scotland. 

Males living in the poorest parts of Scotland live on average 13.5 years less than those in the most affluent parts, with females living 10.2 years less. 

This gap has become wider over the past few years, growing by 1.3 years for males and 1.6 years for females since 2013-2015, with Inverclyde, Dundee City and South Ayrshire experiencing some of the biggest decreases.

Male life expectancy at birth was highest in Shetland Islands (80.6 years) and lowest in Glasgow City (73.1 years).

Female life expectancy at birth was highest in East Renfrewshire (84.0 years) and lowest in Glasgow City (78.3 years).

However other NRS figures also showed a record number of Scots living to 100 last year.

The number of centenarians increased by 110, or 13 per cent, to 960 in 2020, with women outnumbering men four to one, at 770 to 190.

The rise is linked to the jump in births that followed the end of World War One.

Two thirds of the estimated 43,750 people aged 90 and over in Scotland are women, reflecting longer female life expectancy.

Julie Ramsay, Head of Vital Events Statistics at NRS, said: “It is clear that the high number of excess deaths in 2020 has led to the fall in life expectancy. 

“Our analysis shows that Covid-19 deaths accounted for the vast majority of the fall in life expectancy for both males and females, with drug-related deaths also having a negative impact on life expectancy for males.

”This measure of life expectancy provides an important summary of the health of the population and helps to show how this is changing over time.

“Increases in life expectancy point to a healthier population whilst reductions point to a decline in population health.  

“Covid-19 has clearly driven a significant increase in deaths and this life expectancy measure will provide important evidence as to whether the impact of the pandemic is a one-off shock or whether it will have a sustained impact on mortality.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “These statistics show the true state our country is in. This fall in life expectancy is the result of two public health crises the SNP have catastrophically mishandled.  

“The devastation of Covid-19 was all the more potent after the government made glaring errors such as the putting Covid positive patients into care homes, and failing to make sure that quarantine and contact tracing worked.

“Similarly, ministers cut budgets to drug services by 22%, sending organisations to the wall and severing support.

“Scotland has suffered as a result of years of distracted governments with broken priorities.

“Deprivation still cuts too many lives short. As we look ahead to a long and difficult winter with a crisis in emergency care already biting, ministers must get a grip on the things that really matter.”


The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992