Rise in UK Infant Mortality Rates ‘Significantly Associated’ with Increase in Child Poverty
A new study carried out by researchers in the UK shows that increases in child poverty are significantly associated with rises in infant mortality rates.
The study, undertaken by researchers from the English Universities of Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle, conducted an analysis of infant mortality in local authority areas from 2000-2017.
The study was published by online medical journal BMJ Open.
A statement from the University of Liverpool on the findings of the study explains that the infant mortality rate (IMR) has risen for the last four years in England, yet the role of increasing levels of child poverty in explaining these trends has been unclear.
Rising infant mortality is unusual in high income countries. Eurostat figures show that infant mortality rates across the EU collectively, have almost halved in the last 20 years.
Compiling the study, local authorities were grouped into 5 categories (quintiles) based on their level of income deprivation with Quintile 1 being the most affluent and Quintile 5 the most deprived.
A statistical model was then used to quantify the association between regional changes in child poverty and infant mortality during the same period.
The statement goes on to say that the researchers found that sustained and unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England from 2014-2017 was not experienced evenly across the population.
In the most deprived local authorities, the previously declining trend in infant mortality reversed and mortality rose, leading to an additional 24 infant deaths per 100,000 live births per year, relative to the previous trend.
There was no significant change from the pre-existing trend in the most affluent local authorities.
As a result, inequalities in infant mortality increased, with the gap between the most and the least deprived local authority areas widening by 52 deaths per 100,000 births.
Overall from 2014-2017, there were a total of 572 excess infant deaths compared to what would have been expected based on historical trends. The researchers estimate that each 1% increase in child poverty was significantly associated with an extra 5.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.
The findings suggest that about a third of the increases in infant mortality between 2014 and 2017 may be attributed to rising child poverty, equivalent to an extra 172 infant deaths.
Lead author of the report, Professor David Taylor-Robinson of the University of Liverpool said, ‘This study provides evidence that the unprecedented rise in infant mortality disproportionately affected the poorest areas of the country, leaving the more affluent areas unaffected.
Our analysis also linked the recent increase in infant mortality in England with rising child poverty, suggesting that about a third of the increase in infant mortality from 2014-17 may be attributed to rising child poverty.
These findings are really concerning given that child poverty is rising. It is time for the government to reverse this trend establishing a welfare system that protects children from poverty.’
The study is available here.