Infant mortality is an indicator of child health, and an explanatory variable to reflect the socioeconomic development of a country. We aimed to examine the changes and trends of infant mortality in the European Union (EU) and its 28 member states in the 1994-2015 period.
We extracted data of deaths in children aged less than one year between 1994 and 2015 from the Eurostat database. We analysed secular variation in the EU overall, by country and by geographical region using joinpoint regression analysis. We conducted additional analyses to examine neonatal and early neonatal mortality trends.
Infant mortality in the EU has declined significantly from 8,3 to 3,6 per 1,000 live births (annual percent change=-3,8%; 95% confidence interval, -4,1 to -3,6). Among EU countries, we found the highest mortality rates throughout the study period in Romania and Bulgaria, and the lowest rates in Scandinavian countries (Finland, Sweden). There were significant decreasing trends in every country of the EU, which were most pronounced in former Soviet Baltic states and Eastern European countries, and least pronounced in Western European countries. Mortality rates have increased significantly in Greece in the last years, and plateaued in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Our findings, which are based on official data, provide consistent evidence that infant mortality has declined steadily in the EU and its member states in the past decades, most markedly in Eastern European countries and former Soviet Baltic states. However, rates have risen or levelled off in some western countries in the past few years.