Child Mortality in England During the First 2 Years of the COVID-19 Pandemic

David E Odd, Sylvia Stoianova, Tom D Williams, Peter J Fleming, Karen Luyt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Importance
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, child mortality in England was the lowest on record, but if this trend will continue, or if unrecognized morbidity during the first year of the pandemic will manifest as increased deaths over the next few years is unclear.

Objective
To examine the risks and patterns of childhood deaths before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design, Setting, and Participants
This population-based cohort study includes all child deaths in England from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2022.

Exposures
The year of death.

Main Outcomes and Measures
The primary outcome measure is risk of death.

Results
Of the 9983 child deaths reported during the study period, 9872 (98.8%) were linked to demographic and population data with 3409 deaths (34.5%) between April 2019 and March 2020, 3035 (30.7%) between April 2020 and March 2021, and 3428 (34.7%) between April 2021 and March 2022. Most deaths occurred in children who were younger than 1 year (6257 of 9872 [62.7%]), the majority were male (5534 of 9760 [56.7%]), and lived in an urban area (8766 of 9872 [88.8%]). The risk of death was lower between April 2020 and March 2021 (relative risk [RR], 0.89 [95% CI, 0.84-0.93]), but not between April 2021 and March 2022 (RR, 1.00 [95% CI, 0.95-1.05]) when compared with April 2019 to March 2020. A population attributable risk (PAF) of 4.0% (95% CI, 0.1%-6.8%) suggested fewer deaths occurred during the whole 3-year period than expected. Reductions were seen in risk of dying by infection (PAF, 22.8% [95% CI, 8.2%-37.0%]) and underlying disease (PAF, 13.3% [95% CI, 8.1%-18.8%]), but there was evidence of an increasing risk of death by trauma (PAF, 14.7% [95% CI, 2.9%-25.2%]). Any reduction in the risk of death was greater in rural areas than in urban areas (RR, 0.73 [95% CI, 0.63-0.85] vs RR, 0.91 [95% CI, 0.86-0.95]) and was not seen in children older than 9 years.

Conclusions and Relevance
In this cohort study, there was a significant reduction in all-cause child mortality during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2021), which returned to close to prepandemic levels the following year (2021-2022). However, there was a net reduction in deaths despite this, with 4% fewer deaths during the 3-year period than would have been expected from the 2019 to 2020 risks. The reductions were largest in rural areas and in children younger than 10 years.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2249191
Pages (from-to)e2249191
JournalJAMA Network Open
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2023

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