Analysing a season of death and excess mortality in Scotland’s past
In a new Data Insight, ADR Scotland researcher Dr Beata Nowok describes the use of the Scottish Historic Population Platform (SHiPP) to investigate past disease outbreaks to find parallels and learn lessons that may help us respond better in the present.
In 1855, the national system of compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in Scotland. Approximately 24 million Scottish record images, containing these vital event records were detailed in hand-written certificates until 1973. These records provided a unique source of information about people and their lives, however, before now they had not been transcribed which made research projects very difficult and time consuming.
Fortunately in 2012, the Digitising Scotland project received funding to digitise these records, allowing reseachers to access and uncover rich insights into Scotland’s population. These digitised records now form the Scottish Historic Population Platform (SHiPP) and have been used to inform research published in a recent Data Insight, which describes the forming of a natural experiment, to explore the 1918 influenza pandemic.
By investigating the period from 1911 to 1930, we became aware:
- that December to March were the four months where mortality was in excess of the baseline (184 deaths per day), and could also pinpoint other months which were either consistently high or transitory months or where deaths were at their lowest;
- and of the high mortality rates of 1918-19 due to the H1N1 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu), and that there were other major influenza outbreaks throughout the 1920s.
This blog was originally published on the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) website.