Being born to young mothers is risk factor for early childhood death
Children born to mothers under 30 are more likely to die than those born to older mums according to a new report on child deaths in the UK.Whilst overall child mortality fell by 50% in the past 20 years having a young maternal age was found to be a risk factor for death in early childhood.
The research was led by the Institute of Child Health at UCL. It looked at why children die in the UK using death registration data from January 1980 to December 2010. It focused on child injuries, birthweight and maternal age to assess the risk factors for child deaths.
The research found that in England, Scotland and Wales, the difference in mortality between children of mothers under 30 and those born to mothers aged 30 to 34 accounted for 11% of all deaths up to nine years old. This is equivalent to an average of 397 deaths in the UK each year, the report said.
Deaths in children born to mothers under 20 accounted for just 3.8% of all child deaths up to nine years old.
The study compared children with similar birthweight in each age category. It reported that the biggest difference in deaths was in infants aged from one month to one year.
Among this age group, 22% of deaths in the UK were due to “unexplained causes”, the report said, “which are strongly associated with maternal alcohol use, smoking and deprivation”.
The report added that the current policy, which focuses support on teenage first-time mothers, was not wide-ranging enough because mothers aged under 30 account for 52% of all births in the UK.
Ruth Gilbert, lead researcher and professor of clinical epidemiology at UCL Institute of Child Health, said the findings were important.
“Young maternal age at birth is becoming a marker of social disadvantage as women who have been through higher education and those with career prospects are more likely to postpone pregnancy until their 30s. Universal policies are needed to address the disparities.”
The study, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership and published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, had other key findings.
First, injuries continue to be the biggest cause of death in childhood, but they are declining,
Between 1980 and 2010, injuries accounted for 31% of deaths in one to four-year-olds and 48% of deaths in those aged 15 to 18.
England had consistently lower rates of deaths from injury than the other UK countries, particularly among older boys.