UK infant mortality rate 'fourth highest of all Western countries'


Britain has the fourth highest rate of infant mortality of all Western countries, according to a study.

It is said that there are 1,630 deaths per one million children in Britain, and that there is a link with high child poverty and a lack of investment in healthcare.

The top performing countries - Finland and Sweden - have almost half Britain's rate with 911 and 919 child deaths per million, respectively.

The study, led by Professor Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University, will be highlighted during the Economic and Social Research Council's Festival of Social Science later this month.

Prof Pritchard said: "Although Britain just managed to meet the UN millennium goal of reducing child deaths to 2% by 2015, Britain is still way behind the majority of other Western nations.

"Indeed, the infant mortality rate in Britain is higher than in Greece or Portugal despite their struggling economies."

The study compared the situation in Britain with 20 other Western countries, examining child mortality rates in the context of each nation's relative poverty index.

It showed that Britain's wealthiest people receive 7.2 times the income of its poorest people, while, for example, in Finland, the difference is only 3.7 times.

Prof Pritchard added: "We found inequality to be highly correlated with child mortality. Those countries that had a wide income gap, also had a high rate of child deaths.

"It is significant therefore that Britain has the third widest levels of income inequality in the Western world."

The percentage of national income spent on health services was also significant, according to the study, with Britain again lagging behind other Western nations.

Britain's healthcare expenditure averaged 6.9% of the national income between 1980 and 2013 - the lowest of all Western countries, it was said.

But the study also showed that Britain scores highly for the cost effectiveness of its health service, suggesting it achieves relatively more with less finance.

The figures suggest that although Britain's child mortality rates are high compared to other countries, it has made good progress since 1979, cutting its infant mortality rate by 62%.

Prof Pritchard went on: "The focus now must be on tackling the factors relating to poverty. Of course, if the UK reached and maintained the average health expenditure of the other countries that would also help."