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Infant mortality rate declines

The infant mortality rate was down to 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, compared with 5.0 per 1,000 in 2008, Stats NZ said today.

Infant mortality for Māori dropped from 6.7 in 2008 to 4.9 in 2018.

These are some of the lowest-ever infant mortality rates for New Zealand’s total and Māori populations. They are comparable with other OECD countries’ infant mortality rates, which range between 2.5 and 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births with an average of 3.9.

The United Kingdom’s infant mortality rate is 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the United States’ is 5.9, Australia’s is 3.1, while Iceland has the lowest rate at 0.7.

“Infant mortality rates are an important indicator of maternal and infant heath, as well as the overall health of society,” population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said.

There were 219 infant deaths (under one year of age) and 33,225 deaths in total, and 58,020 live births registered in New Zealand in 2018.

Births and deaths measured by year of registration

These New Zealand figures are based on births and deaths by the year of registration, which are an early indication of infant mortality trends. More refined and comprehensive infant mortality data are available from:
Fetal and infant deaths 2015 (Ministry of Health)
New Zealand cohort life tables: March 2018 update (next update 5 March 2019).

Gestational age, health, and educational outcomes in adolescents and its accompanying video World Prematurity Day have used integrated data to monitor long-term outcomes of New Zealand’s premature babies.

Infant mortality rates from 1900 to 2018

The relatively small number of infant deaths each year means annual fluctuations should be treated with caution. Long-term trends show a continued fall in the infant mortality rate.

Strong declines in the late 1980s and 1990s partly reflected an educational campaign on sudden infant death syndrome.


Note: Year of occurrence is based on the year of birth for both births and deaths (cohort mortality series). The increase in the 2014 infant mortality rates by year of registration
was because a significant number of deaths in 2011 and 2012 were registered by the Department of Internal Affairs in 2014 after administrative improvements.

Neonatal and post-neonatal deaths from 1950 to 2018

Declines in the number of deaths of infants aged under 28 days (neonatal) were the main driver of New Zealand’s decrease in infant mortality rates from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of deaths at ages between 28 days and one year (post-neonatal) has been fewer than the number of neonatal deaths.


Plunketline (phone 0800 933 922) has more information and provides support on infant and maternal health. They give advice on parenting issues and your child’s health and well-being, 24 hours a day.

Healthline (phone 0800 611 116) gives 24-hour free health advice from registered nurses.

For urgent medical attention, phone 111 for an ambulance.

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