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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The BBC and the taboo against asking an obvious question

The Office of National Statistics has recorded a continued fall in the number of unexplained infant deaths - 2007's figure is 7% down on the previous year. Good news indeed.

Still a lot of deaths, though - five every week in England and Wales. What do we know about them? The BBC quotes some answers that took me aback:-

'The majority of deaths were among babies of a normal birthweight - 2,500 grammes or 5.5lbs and above, and occurred between 28 days and one year of age.

'At a rate of 1.42 per 1,000 live births, the rate among unmarried mothers registering the birth alone was eight times that of babies born within marriage.

'For births inside and outside marriage - and where the baby was registered by both parents - the death rate among parents in the routine and manual occupations was twice that among those classified as managerial or professional.

'Age was also a factor: rates were highest in mothers under 20, and fell the older she became.

'There were also regional variations: the North East had the highest rate, at 0.66 per 1,000 births, and the East of England the lowest, at 0.32 per 1,000.'

Let's have one of those stats again: 'the rate among unmarried mothers registering the birth alone was eight times that of babies born within marriage'. Eight times! What on earth can that be about?

The ONS doesn't do explanations. Here's all you'll get from the Beeb-

'There is now suggestion that bacteria may have a role in sudden infant death, although the precise nature of any such relationship is unclear.'

Well, they must be exceptionally unenlightened bacteria. I hope none of them is planning a career with the BBC.

PS The ONS bulletin is here. In it I discover another differential that has been excised by the Beeb from the quote above:-

'During the period 2003–07, the unexplained infant death rate in boys was over 1.3 times
the rate in girls.'

Clearly too scandalous to be mentioned.

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