The contribution of increasing numbers of deaths from suicide, alcohol-related and drug-related causes to changes in overall mortality rates has been highlighted in various countries. In Scotland, particular vulnerable cohorts have been shown to be most at risk; however, it is unclear to what extent this applies elsewhere in Britain. The aim here was to compare mortality rates for different birth cohorts between Scotland and England and Wales (E&W), including key cities.
Mortality and population data (1981–2017) for Scotland, E&W and 10 cities were obtained from national statistical agencies. Ten-year birth cohorts and cohort-specific mortality rates (by age of death, sex, cause) were derived and compared between countries and cities.
Similarities were observed between countries and cities in terms of peak ages of death, and the cohorts with the highest death rates. However, cohort-specific rates were notably higher in Scotland, particularly for alcohol-related and drug-related deaths. Across countries and cities, those born in 1965–1974 and 1975–1984 had the highest drug-related mortality rates (peak age at death: 30–34 years); the 1965–1974 birth cohort also had the highest male suicide rate (peak age: 40–44 years). For alcohol-related causes, the highest rates were among earlier cohorts (1935–1944, 1945–1954, 1955–1964)—peak age 60–64 years.
The overall similarities suggest common underlying influences across Britain; however, their effects have been greatest in Scotland, confirming greater vulnerability among that population. In addressing the socioeconomic drivers of deaths from these causes, the cohorts identified here as being at greatest risk require particular attention.