Excess mortality in women of reproductive age from low-income countries: a Swedish national register study

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Abstract

Background: Cause-of-death statistics is widely used to monitor the health of a population. African immigrants have, in several European studies, shown to be at an increased risk of maternal death, but few studies have investigated cause-specific mortality rates in female immigrants. Methods: In this national study, based on the Swedish Cause of Death Register, we studied 27 957 women of reproductive age (aged 15–49 years) who died between 1988 and 2007. Age-standardized mortality rates per 100 000 person years and relative risks for death and underlying causes of death, grouped according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision, were calculated and compared between women born in Sweden and in low-, middle- and high-income countries. Results: The total age-standardized mortality rate per 100 000 person years was significantly higher for women born in low-income (84.4) and high-income countries (83.7), but lower for women born in middle-income countries (57.5), as compared with Swedish-born women (68.1). The relative risk of dying from infectious disease was 15.0 (95% confidence interval 10.8–20.7) and diseases related to pregnancy was 6.6 (95% confidence interval 2.6–16.5) for women born in low-income countries, as compared to Swedish-born women. Conclusions: Women born in low-income countries are at the highest risk of dying during reproductive age in Sweden, with the largest discrepancy in mortality rates seen for infectious diseases and diseases related to pregnancy, a cause of death pattern similar to the one in their countries of birth. The World Bank classification of economies may be a useful tool in migration research.

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