MORE Scots are dying than being born according to new statistics from the National Records of Scotland, with the gap between births and deaths recorded as being more than double the previous year.

The stats show that there were 5022 more deaths than births registered in Scotland in 2017 while in 2016 there were just 2240 more deaths than births. While the number of deaths in 2017 rose 2% in a year, the number of births simultaneously fell by 3%.

The figures show coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death in 2017, accounting for almost 12% of deaths in 2017. It was closely followed by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Lung cancer was the third most common cause, accounting for 7% of all deaths.

Cancer deaths, when counted together, rose by almost 2% to 16,207 while there also was a rise in accidental deaths, increasing by 6% to 2348.

However, deaths recorded as probable suicide fell 7% to 680 in 2017, just under two a day. Men were three times more likely to take their own lives than women, with male suicides up slightly from 517 in 2016 to 522 in 2017. The number of women who died as a result of probable suicide was 158, the lowest since 1982.

Anne Slater, the acting Registrar General for Scotland, said: “With a growing and ageing population, it may be expected that the number of deaths will increase.” However, she claimed that as there had been no improvement in the age-standardised death (the death rate of a population adjusted according to its overall age) rate in the last three years, “we may be reaching a turning point, or a plateau, in the long-term downward trend in mortality”.

Charity Age Scotland, said that the figures around dementia and Alzheimer’s had to be taken seriously and encouraged people to make simple changes, including having regularly blood pressure checks from the age of 40, stopping smoking and ensuring they make time for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

Head of policy Adam Stachura said: “Behind every statistic is a real person, family or carer. A rise in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s is hard to take but sadly it is not a surprise. More and more people are being diagnosed as living with dementia and new methods of recording deaths are reflective of this.”

As Scotland’s population ages, the number of people living with dementia is expected to rise from 93,000 to 120,000 in the next 20 years, with heavy smokers 70% more likely to develop the disease and high blood pressure also identified as a risk factor.

Stachura claimed it was also important that government and councils take action to ensure the country was set-up for its ageing population. “This includes speedier access to health and social care, more appropriate homes, better and more accessible public transport options and vitally, making sure people are socially connected to tackle loneliness in older age,” he added. “Older people are an asset to society and make a hugely positive contribution in later life.”

The Mental Health Foundation’s policy manager Toni Giugliano said the fall in suicide deaths was to be welcomed but he claimed that figures were still too high and called for a radical new government prevention plan, claiming existing structures are “not fit for purpose”.

“Over the past four years the numbers have not shifted substantially and around 700 people have taken their own lives every year – that’s on average two people every day.”

He said a new national body for suicide prevention was also needed, along with a dedicated support service for those bereaved by suicide, and better mental health and suicide prevention training.

Meanwhile, Asthma UK called for better care for sufferers, claiming it was “unacceptable” that Scotland had seen 647 asthma deaths since 2012. Though the National Records of Scotland data shows the 2017 figure was down from 133 the previous year it is significantly higher than the 89 asthma deaths registered in 2012.

Scottish chief executive Kay Boycott said: “In many cases their deaths could have been prevented, as research shows two-thirds of people who die from an asthma attack could have survived if they had had better basic care.”