The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System revealed that in 2022, the United States experienced around 20,538 infant deaths. This number marks a troubling 3% rise from the previous year, which recorded 19,928 infant fatalities.
The United States has witnessed its first year-to-year rise in the infant mortality rate since the period of 2001 to 2002.
A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a segment of the Vital Statistics Rapid Release, showed that the temporary infant mortality rate for 2022 went up by 3% compared to the prior year. This increase follows a consistent 22% drop from 2002 to 2021.
The report titled, “Infant Mortality in the United States: Provisional Data from the 2022 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death File,” provides a comprehensive breakdown of the data:
- The provisional infant mortality rate for 2022 stood at 5.60 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a slight increase from 5.44 in 2021.
- The total number of infant deaths in 2022 was 20,538, marking a 3% rise from the 19,928 infant deaths recorded in 2021.
- The year 2022 saw a surge in neonatal and postneonatal infant deaths. The neonatal mortality rate rose by 3%, from 3.49 to 3.58, while the postneonatal mortality rate increased by 4%, moving from 1.95 to 2.02.
- Disturbingly, mortality rates surged among infants born to American Indian and Alaska Native and White women. Specifically, rates for infants of American Indian and Alaska Native, non-Hispanic women jumped from 7.46 to 9.06, and for White, non-Hispanic women, it increased from 4.36 to 4.52.
- Infants born to women aged between 25 to 29 also saw a significant rise in mortality rates, moving from 5.15 to 5.37.
- Preterm infants, especially those born before 34 weeks of gestation, experienced a notable increase in mortality rates.
- Male infants weren’t spared either, with their mortality rate climbing from 5.83 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 6.06.
- Four states, namely Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas, reported increased infant mortality rates.
- Two of the top ten causes of infant deaths, maternal complications and bacterial sepsis, also saw a rise in mortality rates.
As outlined in the report’s summary:
The infant mortality rate for the United States rose 3% from 2021 to 2022, the first year-to-year increase in the rate since 2001 to 2002. From 2002 to 2021, the infant mortality rate declined 22%. From 2021 to 2022, increases in mortality rates were observed for neonatal and postneonatal infant deaths, infants born to American Indian and Alaska Native and White women, and infants born to women ages 25–29.
Rates also increased for infants born preterm, male infants, and for infants in four states (Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas). Mortality rates increased significantly for 2 of the 10 leading causes of death: maternal complications and bacterial sepsis. Although not statistically significant, rates generally increased for most other race and Hispanic origin, maternal age, and gestational age groups, as well as for female infants, in a majority of states, and for 3 of the 10 leading causes of death.
Marie Thoma, a well-known researcher at the University of Maryland focusing on maternal and infant mortality, voiced her concerns about the trend.
“It’s definitely concerning, given that it’s going in the opposite direction from what it has been,” she stated.
Dr. Eric Eichenwald, a neonatologist based in Philadelphia, echoed Thoma’s concerns, describing the new data as “disturbing.” He highlighted that although experts have been discussing potential reasons for this sudden increase, a definite cause remains elusive.
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