Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Social class differences in infant mortality in Sweden: comparison with England and Wales.

British Medical Journal 1992; 305 doi: (Published 19 September 1992) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1992;305:687
  1. D. A. Leon,
  2. D. Vågerö,
  3. P. O. Olausson
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


    OBJECTIVES--To investigate social class differences in infant mortality in Sweden in the mid-1980s and to compare their magnitude with that of those found in England and Wales. DESIGN--Analysis of risk of infant death by social class in aggregated routine data for the mid-1980s, which included the linkage of Swedish births to the 1985 census. SETTING--Sweden and England and Wales. SUBJECTS--All live births in Sweden (1985-6) and England and Wales (1983-5) and corresponding infant deaths were analysed. The Swedish data were coded to the British registrar general's social class schema. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Risk of death in the neonatal and postneonatal period. RESULTS--Taking the non-manual classes as the reference group, in the neonatal period in Sweden the manual social classes had a relative risk for mortality of 1.20 (95% confidence interval 1.02 to 1.43) and those not classified into a social class a relative risk of 1.08 (0.88 to 1.33). In the postneonatal period the equivalent relative risks were 1.38 (1.08 to 1.77) for manual classes and 2.14 (1.65 to 2.79) for the residual; these are similar to those for England and Wales (1.43 (1.36 to 1.51) for manual classes, 2.62 (2.45 to 2.81) for the residual). CONCLUSIONS--The existence of an equitable health care system and a strong social welfare policy in Sweden has not eliminated inequalities in post-neonatal mortality. Furthermore, the very low risk of infant death in the Swedish non-manual group (4.8/1000 live births) represents a target towards which public health interventions should aim. If this rate prevailed in England and Wales, 63% of postneonatal deaths would be avoided.