- The mortality rate for infants in Britain rose for the first time in 100 years in 2015; the following year also saw an increase
- Researchers say the rise is due to higher risk factors in the UK, tied to poverty and inequality
The mortality rate for infants in Britain rose for the first time in 100 years in 2015 and again in 2016. Deaths rose from 3.6 deaths per 1,000 in 2014 to 3.7 per 1,000 in 2015, then 3.8 per 1,000 deaths in 2016. Previous years had shown a steady decline in infant mortality rates across the UK.
The new report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health predicts that if the rate of increase stays the same, the UK's infant mortality will be 140% higher than 15 other European countries within the next 12 years, due to a faster fall of mortality rates elsewhere in Europe.
The lead author of the report, Russell Viner, said this possible outcome is "pretty disastrous." He added that "this is a warning sign that things need to shift."
Viner said that the cause of the rise in mortality seen over the past two years is unknown and that it's not clear whether this is a blip or a sign of a worrying trend.
However, he added, "much of this is related to deprivation, poverty and inequality, which is higher [in the UK] than in the other European countries."
The report modeled historical data on mortality rates against Britain's future child health outcomes alongside 15 other countries in the European Union as well as Norway, Australia and Canada.
The analysis identified the potential for rates in the UK to be 140% higher for infant mortality by 2030. If the mortality rates in the UK starts to decrease again, at the rate seen between 2001 to 2014, it can expect a 80% higher mortality rate than other European countries by 2030.
In both predictions, Britain fares worse than its European counterparts due to risk factors for infant mortality being higher, according to the report.
"The proportion of young mothers, the proportion of those who smoke during pregnancy, the proportion who don't breastfeed are worse than in other EU countries," Viner said.