4398.0 - Causes of Infant and Child Deaths, Australia, 1982 to 1996  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/02/1998  Ceased
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February, 4 1998
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Infant and child death rates continue to fall

Death rates for infants and children have fallen over the last 15 years, according to a new report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The infant (under 12 months) death rate fell from 9.6 per 1,000 live births in 1982-86 to 6.1 in 1992-96. The child (aged 1-4 years) death rate also fell from 0.5 per 1,000 children to 0.4 during the same period.

Between 1982 and 1996 there were almost 30,000 infant deaths. A new born's first month was the most critical with almost two thirds (18,493) of infant deaths occurring during the first month of life.

In this first month most (10,382) of these deaths occurred on the day of birth. Causes of death during the first month were largely to do with perinatal conditions, i.e. complications originating in pregnancy and birth (11,400 deaths) or congenital anomalies, i.e. birth defects (6,100 deaths).

Sudden Infant Deaths Syndrome (SIDS) accounted for about half (5,500) of all infant deaths after the first month of birth. However, the death rate due to Sudden Infant Deaths Syndrome (SIDS) has decreased by 57 per cent over the 15 years from 457 deaths per year in 1982-86 to 210 in 1992-96.

The number of infant deaths attributed to vaccine preventable cases was negligible (58) despite reported epidemics in the survey period.

In a comparison using data from Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia the death rate among Indigenous born infants was almost four times higher than non-Indigenous infants.

Over the last five years the Northern Territory had the highest infant death rate per 100,000 live births (1,345) followed by Queensland (678), New South Wales (630), Tasmania (607), Western Australia (600), South Australia (532), Victoria (520) and the Australian Capital Territory (480) had the lowest infant death rate.

There were 6,300 deaths among young children aged (1-4 years) with motor vehicle accidents and drowning accounting for about one third of these deaths. Birth defects and malformations (14 per cent) and cancer (11 per cent) were the next most common causes of death.

Details are in Causes of Infant and Child Deaths, 1982-96 Australia (cat. no. 4398.0) available from ABS bookshops.