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Low Birthweight Associated to Higher Death Rates During Infancy, Childhood, Adolescence

May 12, 2016 01:51 AM EDT

It has been known that low birthweight is associated with increased mortality in infancy, but a new study suggest that low birthweight might also contribute to higher rate of mortality in later childhood and adolescence.

In order to determine if there is a link between low birthweight and increase risk of childhood and adolescence mortality, researchers examined official death rates in low birthweight babies among the over 12 million live births in England and Wales.

According to the study published in PLOS Medicine, out of the 12,355,251 recorded live births in England and Wales between 1993 and 2011, 74, 890 died between birth and 18 years of age, in which 57,623 occurred in the first year of life, while the remaining 17,267 occurred between one and 18 years of age.

The researchers discovered that babies with low birthweight have higher death rates at both age groups, with death occurring 130 times more frequently in those born at a very low birthweight (under 2,500g) than normal birth weight in infancy.

The most leading cause of death in the lowest birthweight group are conditions of the nervous system (20%) and respiratory system (16%) , while cancer and external conditions, such as accidents, are considered to be the primary causes of death in low birthweight group, with both as 20 percent.

"This study is significant as it shows, for the first time, that low birthweight is associated with increased death rates from infancy right through to adolescence," said Professor Sailesh Kotecha of Cardiff University's School of Medicine, in a statement.

The authors are careful to point out that the study is purely observation and there is still no concrete scientific evidence proving a causal relationship between low birthweight and increased mortality.

Nevertheless, the findings reinforces the need to target factors known to contribute to low birthweights to help cut deaths. The most common factors contributing to low birthweight are maternal smoking and deprivation.

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