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March 25, 2008

Male Infant Fatality Rate Higher Than Female Infants

Researchers have found that male infants are more likely to die than females, although male infant mortality rates have declined since 1970.

The team studied 15 developed countries and showed the peak of male infant mortality was more than 30 percent higher than females in the 1970s. This rate tripled from that of 1751. After its peak in the 1970s, the male disadvantage began to normalize in most countries.

Researchers attribute the lowered infant mortality rate to improved methods of neonatal care. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Also, boys were found to be 60 percent more likely to be born prematurely and suffer from pre-term birth conditions such as neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, which occurs in infants with underdeveloped lungs.

Previously, men have been blamed for their behavior as a factor for their higher mortality rates, but behavior is replaced by biological explanations, according to Eileen Crimmins of the University of Southern California, one of the researchers.

"Males and females can have very different mortality at an age when behavior is not a factor," Crimmins said. "We tend to think that males have higher mortality at all ages because they behave worse, basically. But this (infant mortality) is a case where they don't behave any differently."

"It was so large, so consistent across so many countries, and it couldn't be explained by behavior," Crimmins added.

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On the Net:

PNAS - "The rise and fall of excess male infant mortality"

University of Southern California

RedOrbit - "Premature Male Babies Should Get Special Treatment"