Trends in infant mortality and stillbirth rates in Scotland by socio-economic position, 2000-2018: a longitudinal ecological study

Alice Harpur, Jon Minton, Julie Ramsay, Gerry McCartney, Lynda Fenton, Harry Campbell, Rachael Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: As Scotland strives to become a country where children flourish in their early years, it is faced with the challenge of socio-economic health inequalities, which are at risk of widening amidst austerity policies. The aim of this study was to explore trends in infant mortality rates (IMR) and stillbirth rates by socio-economic position (SEP) in Scotland, between 2000 and 2018, inclusive.

METHODS: Data for live births, infant deaths, and stillbirths between 2000 and 2018 were obtained from National Records of Scotland. Annual IMR and stillbirth rates were calculated and visualised for all of Scotland and when stratified by SEP. Negative binomial regression models were used to estimate the association between SEP and infant mortality and stillbirth events, and to assess for break points in trends over time. The slope (SII) and relative (RII) index of inequality compared absolute and relative socio-economic inequalities in IMR and stillbirth rates before and after 2010.

RESULTS: IMR fell from 5.7 to 3.2 deaths per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2018, with no change in trend identified. Stillbirth rates were relatively static between 2000 and 2008 but experienced accelerated reduction from 2009 onwards. When stratified by SEP, inequalities in IMR and stillbirth rates persisted throughout the study and were greatest amongst the sub-group of post-neonates. Although comparison of the SII and RII in IMR and stillbirths before and after 2010 suggested that inequalities remained stable, descriptive trends in mortality rates displayed a 3-year rise in the most deprived quintiles from 2016 onwards.

CONCLUSION: Whilst Scotland has experienced downward trends in IMR and stillbirth rates between 2000 and 2018, the persistence of socio-economic inequalities and suggestion that mortality rates amongst the most deprived groups may be worsening warrants further action to improve maternal health and strengthen support for families with young children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2021


  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Research
  • Scotland/epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stillbirth/epidemiology


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