SPHR researchers from LiLaC and Fuse have published an important new study in the BMJ Open, linking the recent rise in infant mortality to poverty. This is the first time research has explored area deprivation and inequalities when examining the rise in infant mortality, including the reasons behind the rise.
In contrast to historical trends, infant mortality has increased in England since 2013. Overall in the four year period 2014 – 2017, there were an additional 570 infant deaths. This study analysed national-level data which showed that the poorest areas of England have experienced the highest number of infant deaths, with no significant change in the more affluent areas.
This increase in inequalities was further examined using linked area-level data and the study estimated around one third (172) of the extra infant deaths between 2014 – 2017 were linked to the recent increase in levels of child poverty. The findings showed that a contributing factor to the rise in infant mortality, is the ongoing increase in income poverty.
The research has important policy implications in the current context of the expected continued increase in child poverty levels in the UK. The researchers emphasise the seriousness of infant mortality and particularly the rise in the most disadvantaged areas of the country:
“This rise in mortality in the most disadvantaged children is unprecedented and requires urgent action by national and local governments and the health and social care system. It is likely that the rise in child poverty is an important factor contributing to this trend”.
The full paper ‘Assessing the impact of rising child poverty on the unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England, 2000–2017: time trend analysis’ can be accessed here.