J Korean Med Sci.  2016 Sep;31(9):1450-1454. 10.3346/jkms.2016.31.9.1450.

Neonatal and Infant Mortality in Korea, Japan, and the U.S.: Effect of Birth Weight Distribution and Birth Weight-Specific Mortality Rates

  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital, Goyang, Korea.
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, CHA Gangnam Medical Center, CHA University, Seoul, Korea. g-daughter@hanmail.net
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, Chicago, USA.


Difference in crude neonatal and infant mortality rates (NMR and IMR) among different countries is due to the differences in its two determinants: birth weight distribution (BWD) and birth weight-specific mortality rates (BW-SMRs). We aimed to determine impact of BWD and BW-SMRs on differences in crude NMR and IMR among Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Our study used the live birth data of the period 2009 through 2010. Crude NMR/IMR are the lowest in Japan, 1.1/2.1, compared to 1.8/3.2, in Korea, and 4.1/6.2, in the U.S., respectively. Japanese had the best BW-SMRs of all birth weight groups compared to the Koreans and the U.S. The U.S. BWD was unfavorable with very low birth weight (< 1,500 g) rate of 1.4%, compared to 0.6% in Korea, and 0.8% in Japan. If Koreans and Japanese had the same BWD as in the U.S., their crude NMR/IMR would be 3.9/6.1 for the Koreans and 1.5/2.5 for the Japanese. If both Koreans and Japanese had the same BW-SMRs as in the U.S., the crude NMR/IMR would be 2.0/3.8 for the Koreans and 2.7/5.0 for the Japanese. In conclusion, compared to the U.S., lower crude NMR or IMR in Japan is mainly attributable to its better BW-SMRs. Koreans had lower crude NMR and IMR, primarily from its favorable BWD. Comparing crude NMR or IMR among different countries should include further exploration of its two determinants, BW-SMRs reflecting medical care, and BWD reflecting socio-demographic conditions.


Infant Mortality; Birth Weight; Korea; Japan; the United States

MeSH Terms

*Birth Weight
Databases, Factual
*Infant Mortality/ethnology
Infant, Newborn
Republic of Korea
United States
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