British youngsters under five are 50 per cent more likely to die than those in Sweden, according to a damning report. The rate is also around 25 per cent higher than in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The UK has one of the highest child mortality rates in western Europe, a study reveals.
Obesity, unhealthy diets and smoking during pregnancy may help to explain the difference, say experts.
The child mortality rate for England was 29 deaths per 10,000 – one and a half times higher than in Sweden
Researchers, led by University College London, focused on the difference between England and Sweden because both have a similar standard of economic development and healthcare. The damning findings, published in The Lancet, show the UK would see 6,000 fewer deaths per decade if it matched the Scandinavian country. Using medical data from the NHS and the Swedish health service, the study compared the health of under fives between 2003 and 2012.
The child mortality rate for England was 29 deaths per 10,000 – one and a half times higher than in Sweden, where the rate was 19 deaths in 10,000. Lead author Dr Ania Zylbersztejn, of UCL’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: ‘While child deaths are still rare, the UK has one of the highest child mortality rates in western Europe.’
British youngsters under five are 50 per cent more likely to die than those in Sweden, according to a shocking new study
More than 80 per cent of deaths in children under five occur before their first birthday. The main reason for excess deaths – accounting for 68 per cent of the greater risk of death in children under one – is premature birth, low birth weight or defects such as heart problems.
A low birth weight increases the risk of death four-fold. Babies born pre-term are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems or conditions such as cerebral palsy. Such problems can occur in young mothers and England has four times the number of babies born to teenage mothers than Sweden. British mums-to-be are also more likely to be overweight or smoke during pregnancy.
England’s higher proportion of young mothers, cause babies to be born prematurely, underweight or with birth defects that increase their risk of death by 17 times
If the child mortality rate was the same in England as in Sweden, more than 600 fewer children would have died a year in England during the ten-year period analysed, researchers said.
Overall, the study included more than 3.9million English births, with 11,392 deaths.
Co-author Professor Anders Hjern, of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, said: ‘The key factors here are likely to include Sweden’s broader welfare programmes that have provided families with an economic safety net for over 50 years, the free and accessible educational system, including early child care, and public health policies for many lifestyle issues such as obesity, smoking and alcohol use.’