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Background. The majority of travelers from the UK and Scotland visit Europe, particularly Spain and France, as well as North America, yet surveillance that aids in travel medicine guidance continues to focus on infectious diseases relating to developing countries. Here, we report on causes of death among all bodies returned to Scotland for cremation.

Methods. Data collected by the Scottish Government on bodies being returned from abroad for cremation was collated for the period 2000 to 2004, and analyzed to identify the cause and location of death among travelers as well as to test the hypothesis that for death due to failure of the circulatory system among Scots there was a significant association between age at death and whether death occurred in Scotland or abroad.

Results. Of the 572 deaths reported between 2000 and 2004, 73% occurred in the European region and 10% in the Americas. With respect to the cause, trauma accounted for 20.4%, infectious diseases 1.5%, and other non-infectious causes accounted for 75.5% of deaths. Among the latter, the major cause of death was due to failure of the circulatory system (77.0%). A significant association was observed between death abroad due to failure of the circulatory system and younger age at death for all (χ2 = 26.9, df = 3, p < 0.001) and for males (χ2 = 20.7, df = 3, p < 0.001) but not for females (χ2 = 2.7, df = 1, p = 0.099).

Conclusions. The data indicates a low rate of death among Scots traveling abroad, with trauma and other non-infectious causes being the most common cause of death; failure of the circulatory system was the most common cause of death in the latter group. Europe and the Americas were the most common locations of death. Although travel health services should continue to advise travelers to developing countries on infectious disease risks, it is also important that travel health acts as venue for providing key advice and preventative means to all travelers, including those to developed countries. Those agencies, organizations, and companies who deal with travelers along their journey should also engage with travel health experts and practitioners to reduce the risk of adverse outcomes, including death, to travelers.