Recent historic increase of infant mortality in France: A time-series analysis, 2001 to 2019


Background: The infant mortality rate (IMR) serves as a key indicator of population health.

Methods: We used data from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies on births and deaths during the first year of life from 2001 to 2019 to calculate IMR aggregated by month. We ran joinpoint regressions to identify inflection points and assess the linear trend of each segment. Exploratory analyses were performed for overall IMR, as well as by age at death subgroups (early neonatal [D0-D6], late neonatal [D7-27], and post-neonatal [D28-364]), and by sex. We performed sensitivity analyses by excluding deaths at D0 and using other time-series modeling strategies.

Results: Over the 19-year study period, 53,077 infant deaths occurred, for an average IMR of 3·63/1000 (4·00 in male, 3·25 in female); 24·4% of these deaths occurred during the first day of life and 47·8% during the early neonatal period. Joinpoint analysis identified two inflection points in 2005 and 2012. The IMR decreased sharply from 2001 to 2005 (slope: -0·0167 deaths/1000 live births/month; 95%CI: -0·0219 to -0·0116) and then decreased slowly between 2005 and 2012 (slope: -0·0041; 95%CI: -0·0065 to -0·0016). From 2012 onwards, a significant increase in IMR was observed (slope: 0·0033; 95%CI: 0·0011 to 0·0056). Subgroup analyses indicated that these trends were driven notably by an increase in the early neonatal period. Sensitivity analyses provided consistent results.

Interpretation: The recent historic increase in IMR since 2012 in France should prompt urgent in-depth investigation to understand the causes and prepare corrective actions.

Funding: No financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years, no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.