For the first time in two decades, the United States saw a rise in the infant mortality rate.
According to new data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate reached 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022, marking a 3% increase from the previous year, which was 5.44 deaths per 1,000 live births.
The report highlights that the rising rates were seen in almost all ethnic groups except Asian women. However, White and Native American infants, infant boys, and babies born at 37 weeks or earlier saw significant rises in their mortality rates.
American Indian and Alaskan Native women saw an increase in the rate from 7.46 infant deaths per 1,000 in 2021 to 9.06 deaths in 2022, while White women saw a rise in the rate from 4.36 per 1,000 to 5.42.
The rise in overall infant mortality rate was the first statistically significant increase since 2001–2002, when the rate increased from 6.8 deaths to 7.0 deaths per 1,000.
Notably, four states experienced the most significant surge in this trend: Georgia, Texas, Iowa and Missouri.
Complications during pregnancy, as well as dangerous bacterial infections known as sepsis, emerged as some of the fastest-growing causes of infant mortality, the CDC said.
Reproductive health experts, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, suggest that disparities in access to health care may have contributed to this increase. Additionally, the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could have led to some pregnant individuals not receiving proper care.
“The U.S. is falling behind on a basic indicator of how well societies treat people,” Arjumand Siddiqi, a University of Toronto professor who studies population health, told the WSJ. “In a country as well-resourced as the U.S., with as much medical technology and so on, we shouldn’t have babies dying in the first year of life. That should be super rare, and it’s not.”
Experts also tell the WSJ that higher costs of living and factors like the opioid epidemic could have also triggered the increase in numbers.
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