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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Variation in cot death risk
Babies are most at risk of SIDS in their first year
Babies born to parents who are married are less likely to die from cot death, according to official figures.

Government statistics show that if the mother is the only parent who registers the birth the baby is five times more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than if the baby is born to married parents.

In many of these cases the mother is likely to be a single parent.

We need better, more standardised information about babies who die

Joyce Epstein, FSID

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also show that the risk of death is highest among babies who are born to teenage mothers.

The total number of sudden infant deaths fell marginally last year compared to 1998.

Some 279 infants died of cot death in England and Wales in 1999 compared to 286 the previous year.

Overall one in every 2,000 infants is at risk of dying from SIDS.

The figures also show that babies are more likely to die from SIDS between the age of one and 12 months.

The risks of dying from SIDS are highest between January and March, compared with the rest of the year.

Between 1995 and 1999, cot deaths were almost one-third higher in these months than in each of the other nine months.

The cot-death charity The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths suggested that overall cot death rates could be much higher.

Its director Joyce Epstein said many baby deaths were registered as "unascertained" and were not included in cot death statistics.

She added that the number of "unascertained" deaths had increased five-fold since 1994.

"Cot death is put on a baby's death certificate if no reason can be found for why they died.

"Unascertained seems to have the same meaning. So why is unascertained being used instead of cot death? We do not know."

She added: "We need better, more standardised information about babies who die."

Reverend Ron Robinson, FSID Trustee, added: "It is important that these figures should not be seen as an attack on the parenting skills of either single or younger mothers. "It is not known why babies in these families are at a higher risk of cot death, that is why FSID continues to fund studies which examine babies' physiological development as well as their social and environmental circumstances."

Drug-related deaths

The ONS figures also show that the number of people dying from drug-related poisoning has increased significantly since 1994.

The total number of deaths from drug abuse and accidents and suicides involving drugs rose by more than a fifth in recent years.

In 1994, there were 2,404 drug-related deaths compared with a total of 2,922 in 1998.

Deaths from accidents or suicides increased by 7% to 2,196 in 1998.

The figures also reveal that hundreds of people are dying from paracetamol overdoses every year.

Between 1993 and 1998, an average of 500 people died every year after taking paracetamol.

Of these, approximately 175 deaths were as a result of paracetamol alone and did not involve any other drugs.

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09 Jun 00 | Health
Paracetamol overdoses 'falling'
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