Infant Mortality

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic


Infant mortality refers to the death of a child within the first year of life and is further divided into neonatal mortality (death of a child in the first 28 days of life) and post-neonatal mortality (the death of a child after the first 28 days of life but within the first year). Infant mortality is typically reported as a ratio of deaths per 1,000 live births in a given location and time. Infant mortality involves a range of factors, including sanitation, nutrition, infant feeding, and health care services, making it one of the most comprehensive measures of the health of a society [1]. In 2005, Canada ranked second among G-7 countries with a 5.4 infant mortality rate [2]. In 2005, British Columbia’s infant mortality rate was lower than the national average at 4.6 [3].

Sex Issues

Infant mortality rates vary based on gender. Nationwide, the rate is 5.9 for boys and 5.0 for girls. In British Columbia, the rate is 5.2 for boys and 3.7 for girls. [4] Although a number of theories have been offered, no definitive explanation has been established for the sex differences in infant mortality.

Gender Issues

Women are more likely to have a lower socio-economic status [5], which increases the risk of infant mortality [6]. In 1996, the infant mortality rate for the poorest 20% of the urban population was 1.6 times higher than the mortality rate for the wealthiest 20%. This gap has narrowed significantly over the past 25 years. In 1971, the rate was nearly double in the poorest group, [7] however, this disparity points to the importance of social determinants of women’s health.


In British Columbia in 2000, the infant mortality rate for First Nations infants was twice that of non-First Nations people, which includes a post-neonatal infant mortality rate 3.6 times higher. The infant mortality rate among the First Nations infants has a very high component of postneonatal mortality, indicating a need to address socioeconomic and living conditions. [8] Wide disparities in infant mortality rates also occur across British Columbia’s health service delivery areas. In 2003, the highest rate of 7.3 occurred in the Northern Interior area of Northern Health Authority while the lowest was 1.7 in the East Kootenay area of Interior Health Authority [9].

As the health of a mother is critically involved with the health of her infant, the rate of infant mortality can reveal much about the state of women’s health. Though Canada’s infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world, numerous reports have documented the disparities that exist for subpopulations, specifically for Aboriginal infants or infants born into a low socioeconomic status.
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