DATA INSIGHTS - Analysing a season of death and excess mortality in Scotland’s past

This Data Insights from researcher Dr Beata Nowok, uses the Scottish Historic Population Platform (SHiPP), to investigate past disease outbreaks to find parallels and learn lessons that help us respond better.  

Scottish Historic Population Platform (SHiPP) 

In 1855, the national system of compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in Scotland. These records provided a unique source of information about people and their lives. However, as they were handwritten up until 1973, they made research projects very difficult and time consuming. Thanks to the Digitising Scotland project they now exist in an electronic form as part of the the Scottish Historic Population Platform (SHiPP) which this Data Insights has used. This data set is now being enhanced and will be made available to the wider research community, in the near future.

Data Insights Overview

By investigating the period from 1911 to 1930, our researchers became aware:

  • that December to April were the five months where mortality was in excess of the baseline (184 deaths per day), and could also pinpoint other months which were either transitory months or where deaths were at their least.
  • of the high mortality rates of 1918-19 due to the H1N1 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu), and whether there were other major influenza outbreaks throughout the 1920s, and if so are there lessons to be learnt to help resolve any future health crisis. 

To discover the full details of their research, please read their Data Insights here - which shows the value of SHiPP and the rich perspectives that historical, longitudinal data can provide.

What next?

After the data linkage, Dr Beata Nowok and colleagues aim to use the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic to investigate impacts of early life adverse conditions on life expectancy and mortality by cause of death. This is particularly important for Scotland given the nature of health inequalities.


For further information:

  • Creating new datasets, please visit our webpage
  • Longitudinal Studies Centre Scotland please click here


This article was published on 21 Jun 2021

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