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Trends in deaths from respiratory illness in children in England and Wales from 1968 to 2000
  1. J R Panickar1,
  2. S R Dodd2,
  3. R L Smyth3,
  4. J M Couriel1
  1. 1Respiratory Unit, Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital NHS Trust, Alder Hey, Liverpool L12 2AP, UK
  2. 2Centre for Medical Statistics and Health Evaluation, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GS, UK
  3. 3Division of Child Health, University of Liverpool, Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital NHS Trust, Alder Hey, Liverpool L12 2AP, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J M Couriel
    Respiratory Unit, Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital NHS Trust, Alder Hey, Liverpool L12 2AP, UK; jcourielrlc.nhs.uk

Abstract

Background: Childhood mortality has decreased markedly over the last three decades. A study was undertaken to determine trends in deaths from respiratory illness in children in England and Wales.

Methods: Mortality data collected by the Office for National Statistics were analysed. The data included all deaths registered from all causes in children aged between 28 days and 16 years in England and Wales from 1 January 1968 to 31 December 2000. The main outcome measures were overall and age-specific mortality rates due to all respiratory disorders and specific rates for pneumonia, asthma, cystic fibrosis (CF), and bronchiolitis.

Results: In children aged 1–16 years the overall mortality rate (per 100 000 children) declined from 49.9 in 1968 to 16.3 in 2000, and rates due to respiratory illness fell from 8.6 to 1.3. The proportion of all deaths caused by respiratory illness in children aged 28 days to 16 years fell from 30.8% in 1968 to 9.9% in 2000. In post-neonatal infants (aged 28–364 days), the “all cause” mortality rate fell from 592.8 in 1968 to 176 in 2000 and the rates due to respiratory illness fell from 280 to 22.8. In 2000, pneumonia, asthma and CF together accounted for 73% of all respiratory deaths in 1–16 year olds. In this age group, mortality rates per 100 000 for pneumonia fell from 4.22 to 0.57, for asthma from 0.83 to 0.25, and for CF from 0.66 to 0.12 between 1968 and 2000. Over the same period mortality rates for pneumonia in post-neonatal infants fell from 165 to 6.78 per 100 000 and for CF from 4.88 to 0.33. Bronchiolitis mortality rates per 100 000 in post-neonatal infants fell from 21.47 in 1979 to 1.82 in 2000.

Conclusions: Mortality rates due to all respiratory illnesses in children have fallen markedly in the last three decades. This decline has been more rapid than the overall decline in childhood mortality and respiratory diseases are now responsible for a smaller proportion of deaths in children. These data could provide a foundation for assessing the impact on mortality of future health initiatives such as the introduction of a universal pneumococcal vaccination programme in England and Wales.

  • all cause mortality
  • respiratory deaths
  • bronchiolitis
  • pneumonia
  • cystic fibrosis
  • asthma
  • children

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Footnotes

  • Published Online First 2 September 2005

  • Funding: Respiratory Unit, Royal Liverpool Children’s NHS Trust

  • Competing interests: none declared.

  • The work was independent of the funders.

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