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Infant mortality is higher for low-skilled parents

Infants of women with a short-term education are more likely to die within the first year of life. In more than half of cases, the cause of death is premature childbirth and low foetal weight. This is shown by research from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital.

2019.06.18 | Helle Horskjær Hansen

In Denmark, four out of 1,000 newborn babies die before reaching their first birthday. Now, a new research project shows that women with short-term (primary and lower secondary education less than nine years) or no education have an increased risk of their child dying during the first year. Premature birth and low foetal weight can explain 55-60 per cent of cases.

Yongfu Yu and Jiong Li from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital are behind the study.

"Despite the fall in child mortality in recent decades, there still remains a socio-economic imbalance in the infant mortality rate. Something needs to be done about that," Jiong Li says.

The results have just been published in PLoS Medicine. They are based on a national population study of 1.99 million children born in Denmark in the years 1981-2015.

"To reduce the risk of premature childbirth and low foetal weight will be helpful. One way among others of doing this is by increased focus on improving the health of socially and financially disadvantaged women before and during pregnancy," says Yongfu Yu.

He hopes that the results can contribute to the prevention of premature deaths in infants.

“Even in a welfare society like Denmark, pregnant women with short-term education need more resources to address social challenges in order to improve the health of infants in general and reduce child mortality in particular," says Yongfu Yu.

Background for the results:

  • The study is a cohort study covering 1,994,618 new born babies in Denmark between 1981-2015.
  • The study is financed by grants from Lundbeck Foundation, the Danish Council for Independent Research, Novo Nordisk Fonden, Nordic Cancer Union, Karen Elise Jensens Fond, National Natural Science Foundation of China, the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Science, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the National Center for Advancing Translational Science, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


PhD, MSc. Postdoc, Yongfu Yu
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine and
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Clinical Epidemiology
Tel.: (+1) 4244022194
Email: yoyu@clin.au.dk

PhD, Associate Professor, Jiong Li
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine and
Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Clinical Epidemiology
Tel.: (+45) 8716 8401
Email: yoyu@clin.au.dk

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