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Mortality Rate


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Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths (in general, or due to a specific cause) in a population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit of time. Mortality rate is typically expressed in units of deaths per 1,000 individuals per year; thus, a mortality rate of 9.5 (out of 1,000) in a population of 1,000 would mean 9.5 deaths per year in that entire population, or 0.95% out of the total. It is distinct from morbidity rate, which refers to the number of individuals in poor health during a given time period (the prevalence rate) or the number of newly appearing cases of the disease per unit of time (incidence rate). The term "mortality" is also sometimes inappropriately used to refer to the number of deaths among a set of diagnosed hospital cases for a disease or injury, rather than for the general population of a country or ethnic group.

This disease mortality statistic is more precisely referred to as "case fatality rate" (CFR). According to the United Nations Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group, which consists of representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Population Division, the World Bank and world-renowned academics, maternal death is: "The death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and the site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes." Maternal death prevalence is measured by the maternal mortality ratio, maternal mortality rate, lifetime risk of maternal death, and proportion of maternal deaths among deaths of women of reproductive age. Infant mortality is the death of a child less than one year of age. Childhood mortality is the death of a child before the child's fifth birthday.


National statistics tend to group these two mortality rates together. Globally, ten million infants and children die each year before their fifth birthday; 99% of these deaths occur in developing nations. Infant mortality takes away society's potential physical, social, and human capital. Generally the most common cause worldwide has been dehydration from diarrhea, a preventable disease; however, a variety of programs combating this problem have decreased the rate of children dying from dehydration. Many factors contribute to infant mortality such as the mother's level of education, environmental conditions, and political and medical infrastructure. Improving sanitation, access to clean drinking water, immunization against infectious diseases, and other public health measures could help reduce high rates of infant mortality.

The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) is the ratio of observed deaths in the study group to expected deaths in the general population. This ratio can be expressed as a percentage simply by multiplying by 100. The SMR may be quoted as either a ratio or a percentage. If the SMR is quoted as a ratio and is equal to 1.0, then this means the number of observed deaths equals that of expected cases. If higher than 1.0, then there is a higher number of deaths than is expected. SMR constitutes an indirect form of standardization. It has an advantage over the direct method of standardization since age-adjustment is permitted in situations where age stratification may not be available for the cohort being studied or where strata-specific data are subject to excessive random variability.

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This page was last updated on 08th Oct, 2014

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