07/07/2006

Poorest children have highest death from injury risk

Children from the poorest families in England and Wales face greater risks of dying from injury than children in all other social groups, a study has claimed.

Ten years ago, the death rate from injury and poisoning for children in the lowest social class was five times greater than that for children in the highest social class. Inequalities were greatest for house fire and pedestrian deaths.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from London's School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine examined child injury death rates by social class to test whether these inequalities still exist.

The researchers analysed all deaths of children aged between 0 and 15 due to injury and poisoning in England and Wales using population data from the 1981, 1991 and 2001 censuses. Each record included the year of death, the underlying cause of death and the parents' socio-economic class.

The team found that injury death rates for children have fallen from 11 deaths per 100,000 children per year around the 1981 census to 4 deaths per 100,000 children per year around the 2001 census.

However, they also found that socio-economic inequalities remained. The death rate for children of parents classified as never worked or long-term unemployed (social class 8) was 13 times that for children of parents in higher managerial and profession occupations (social class 1).

Inequalities were found to be greatest again for house fire and pedestrian deaths.

Compared to children of parents in social class 1, the death rate in children of parents in social class 8 was 20 times higher for pedestrian deaths and nearly 40 times higher for deaths due to fires.

Serious inequalities also existed for cyclists and deaths in undetermined intent.

Child death rates from injury and poisoning have fallen in England and Wales over the last 20 years, say the authors of the report. However, children in families where no adult us in paid employment are a notable exception.

The report found that children in these families faced greater risks of dying in road traffic accidents, in fires and from undetermined causes than children in all other social groups. In short, the authors stated, these children have been excluded from the reductions in injury mortality made over this period.

The authors of the report said that explanations of the results were speculative, but probably lay in different exposure to risk.

For example, the higher risk of dying in house fires might reflect the quality and type of housing, with the greatest fire risks for those in temporary and poor housing.

The authors suggested that the findings of the study suggested that serious inequalities still existed, in spite of a government strategy to target particular areas of health inequality.

(KMcA/GB)

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