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International Infant Mortality

Narrative

In 2008, the U.S. infant mortality rate (6.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births) was higher than the rate for many other industrialized nations. Differences in infant mortality rates among industrialized nations may reflect variation in the definition, measurement, and reporting of fetal and infant deaths. However, recent analyses of the differences in gestational age-specific infant mortality indicate that this disparity is most likely related to the high rate of preterm birth in the US.1 Infants born preterm (or less than 37 weeks gestation) have higher rates of death and disability than infants born at term (37 weeks gestation or more).2 Although the United States compares favorably with European countries with respect to the survival of preterm infants, the higher rate of preterm birth in the U.S. overall significantly impacts the infant mortality rate.

In 2008, the U.S. ranked 28th in infant mortality among industrialized nations. In comparison, Iceland and Sweden, both with infant mortality rates of 2.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, were ranked first, followed by Finland and Japan, both with a rate of 2.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. The U.S. did not always rank this low; in 1960, it ranked 12th, with Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands reporting the three lowest rates among industrialized nations that year.

1 MacDorman MF and Mathews TJ. Behind international rankings of infant mortality: how the US compares with Europe. Int J Health Serv. 2010;40(4):577-88

2 MacDorman, MF, and Mathews, TJ. Recent Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States. NCHS Data Brief No. 9. National Center for health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD, 2008

Table

This image is described in the Data section.

international infant mortality rates table

Data

International Infant Mortality Rankings,* Selected Countries, 1960 and 2008
Country Rank 1960 Rank 2008
*Rankings are from lowest to highest infant mortality rates (IMR). Countries with the same IMR receive the same rank.
**Countries with at least 2.5 million population and listed in the OECD database.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Death and Dying. Hyattsville, MD. 2012. Accessed: May 18, 2012.
Australia 6 21
Austria 20 13
Belgium 18 13
Canada 13 24
Chile 28 29
Czech Republic 5 7
Denmark 7 19
Finland 7 3
France 14 15
Germany 19 11
Greece 21 5
Hungary 24 25
Iceland 1 1
Ireland 16 15
Israel data not available 15
Italy 23 8
Japan 17 3
Mexico 27 30
Netherlands 3 15
New Zealand 11 23
Norway 2 5
Poland 25 25
Portugal 26 8
Republic of Korea data not available 11
Slovak Republic 15 26
Spain 22 8
Sweden 4 1
Switzerland 8 19
Turkey 29 30
United Kingdom 10 22
United States 12 28

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