Population growth continues to slow alongside marriage rates

Figures show that natural growth rate has slowed every quarter since 2017

The overall marriage rate fell slightly in the first part of 2018 from 2.9 per 1,000 (3,459) to 2.8 per 1,000 (3,351). The number of same-sex marriages also continued to fall. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The number of same-sex marriages continued to fall in the first quarter of this year, three years after they were first legalised in 2015.

There were 106 same-sex marriages in the first three months of 2018 compared to 130 during the same period in 2017 and 186 in the same period in 2016. At least some of initial batch of same-sex marriages were a result of couples already in a civil-partnership changing their status to married.

Same-sex marriage became legal in November 2015 after a referendum on marriage equality was passed the previous May.

According to the latest "vital statistics" from the CSO, the overall marriage rate also fell slightly in the first part of 2018 from 2.9 per 1,000 (3,459) to 2.8 per 1,000 (3,351).


Ireland’s population growth continued to slow in the first quarter due to a significant fall in the birth rate. There were 15,659 births in the first three months of 2018, a 5 per cent decrease on the same period last year.

Birth rate

Ireland’s birth rate currently stands at 13.1 per 1,000 population, a decrease of 0.8 from the first quarter of 2017.

In the same week as it emerged that more Irish people are returning to the country than leaving for the first time since 2008, the CSO figures show Ireland’s rate of natural population growth has slowed to 5.3 per 1,000, a fall of one per 1,000 from the same period in 2017.

The natural growth rate has been falling since mid-2014, when it stood at about 8 per 1,000.


The average age of mothers this year was 32.9, up 0.1 years from 2017. The average age of first time mothers was 31.1, up from 31 in 2017.

There were 5,919 births registered outside marriages, accounting for 37.8 per cent of all births in the quarter.

Waterford city had the highest number of births outside marriage at 37.8 per cent. The lowest was in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown at 23.4 per cent.

The population growth rate was not helped by a rise in the death rate in the first quarter. There were 9,278 deaths in the first three months of 2018, a 2.3 per cent rise on the 2017 period. This equates to a death rate of 7.7 per 1,000.

Both the infant and neonatal mortality rates also increased in the first part of the year. There were 55 infant deaths (children under one year old), a significant jump on 40 which occurred the same period in 2017 but down on the 63 in 2016. In other words there were 3.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, up 1.1 from 2017.

Neonatal deaths

There were 44 neonatal deaths (deaths before four weeks of age) compared to 32 in the 2017 period. This translates into a rise in the neonatal morality rate from 1.9 to 2.8 per 100 live births.

Diseases of the heart and arteries continue to be the biggest killers in Ireland and were responsible for 28 per cent of deaths. These were followed closely by cancers (27 per cent), then respiratory diseases (7 per cent) and deaths resulting from accidents, suicides or other events (2.9 per cent).

Out of this last category, 25 were suicides (25.4 per cent).


Accidents, suicides and other non-disease related events were the main cause of death for those aged 15-34. In the 35-74 age group the main cause of death was cancer. In the 75-plus group diseases of the heart and arteries were the main killers.

In 2017 the CSO started specifically tracking deaths resulting from dementia and Alzheimer’s. In quarter one of 2018 there were 658 dementia-related deaths of which 430 (65 per cent) were female. There were 200 deaths due to Alzheimer’s, of which 125 (63 per cent) were female.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times