Indian Americans Have Lowest Rate of Sudden Infant Deaths: Study

Indian Americans have the highest percentage of sleeping with their babies among all ethnic groups in New Jersey, but they experience the lowest rate of SUID, according to a study by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.


The rate of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is far less among the Indian American community, compared to that recorded for other groups in New Jersey, according to a recent study by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Though Indian Americans have the highest incidence of sleeping with their babies among all ethnic groups in New Jersey, they experience the lowest rate of SUID, the study found. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers bed-sharing to be a high risk factor in SUID, contributing to sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and ill-defined and unknown causes in children under one year old.

However, researchers who conducted the recent Rutgers study found paradoxical results, which they have attributed to some compensatory factors in the behavior of Indian American parents or the practices in these families, which negate the risk associated with bed sharing.

These behaviors include less consumption of alcohol or cigarettes by Indian Americans as compared to other groups. “Conditions that substantially increase the risk of SUID while bed-sharing include smoking, alcohol use and maternal fatigue. Indian-Americans smoke and use alcohol less than other populations,” lead author Barbara Ostfeld said in a statement. “In addition, grandparents tend to be very active in childcare, which reduces maternal fatigue. Apart from bed-sharing, poverty also increases the risk of SUID, and Indian Americans have higher incomes.”

There is strong clinical information on the risks associated with bed-sharing, Ostfeld, a professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said. The study was conducted to better understand the demographic breakdown related to SUID, which has not been researched to a great extent so far. Ostfeld added that the researchers intended to better understand the risk factors for SUID in all groups and create culturally sensitive health messaging.

The study, published in the journal, New Jersey Pediatrics, looked at the mortality rates of 83,000 New Jersey-born infants of Asian-Indian heritage over a 15-year period and safe sleep practices in a sampling of this population. Results showed that 97 percent of the surveyed American-born mothers of Asian-Indian heritage reported using a crib, compared to 69 percent of those who were foreign-born.

Although infants of the foreign-born mothers of Asian-Indian heritage now residing in the United States had a higher SUID rate compared to infants of U.S.-born mothers of Asian-Indian heritage, for whom no SUID was recorded, the rate was still lower than that in other populations.

From 2000 to 2015, infants of foreign-born mothers of Asian-Indian heritage had a SUID rate of 0.14 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 0.4 in white, 0.5 in Hispanic and 1.6 in black populations, the study found.

“Our study shows that improved compliance with American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on supine sleep and avoiding bed-sharing is associated with a lower rate of SUID even in already low-risk groups,” said Ostfeld.

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