Infant mortality rates increased in the United States last year for the first time in two decades, according to new government data, demonstrating the troubling state of Americans’ overall health when stacked against that of other industrialized countries.
A report that the National Center for Health Statistics released Wednesday found that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. rose 3% between 2021 and 2022, marking the first year-to-year increase in that figure since 2002. Up until last year, the death rate of children under 1 year old had declined 22% over the past two decades.
Now, the latest data shows, there are 5.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.44 the year before.
Significant increases were seen across four states: Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. Though the report didn’t explore causes behind the mortality uptick, it’s worth noting that in 2021, Texas banned abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy, stopping patients from terminating non-viable fetuses.
While Black infant deaths remain the highest across racial demographics, totaling 10.86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022, the statistically significant increase in infant mortality last year was seen in white and Native American babies. Those figures jumped from 4.36 deaths per 1,000 live births to 4.52 deaths year over year in white infants, and from 7.46 deaths per 1,000 live births to 9.06 for Native Americans.
The biggest increases in causes of infant death involved maternal complications and bacterial sepsis in the newborn.
Despite making strides on infant health up until last year, the U.S. consistently has one of the highest infant mortality rates among developed countries, with roughly twice the deaths seen in Scandinavian nations. Studies have indicated the U.S. health care system could improve these figures by focusing efforts on disadvantaged communities and implementing home nurse visiting programs.
The maternal mortality rate ― which looks at women who die while pregnant, during childbirth and up to 42 days after delivering ― in the U.S. is also much higher than that of other developed countries.