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Social inequalities in low birth weight in England and Wales: trends and implications for future population health
  1. K Moser1,
  2. L Li2,
  3. C Power2
  1. 1Office for National Statistics, London, UK
  2. 2Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Kath Moser, Epidemiology Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK; 


Study objective: To examine social inequalities and trends in low birth weight in England and Wales.

Design: Analysis of routine birth data, comparing (a) couple and sole registered births, and (b) manual and non-manual occupational groups.

Setting: England and Wales, 1993–2000.

Main results: Social inequalities in low birth weight were evident throughout 1993–2000: relative to the non-manual group, there is an increased risk for the manual group (range in RR 1.22–1.35) and sole registrations (RR 1.51–1.67). An estimated 6.5% (2979 births) of low birth weight in 2000 could have been avoided if risks associated with the manual group were absent, and 2.8% (1290 births) avoided if risks associated with sole registration were absent. Between 1993 and 2000, the low birthweight rate increased significantly with an estimated overall increase of 11%. Increases were evident in all social groups (15% in manual, 11% in sole registrations and 9% in non-manual); however relative to non-manual the increase in RRs were not statistically significant for manual or sole registrations. When multiple births are excluded, the rate of low birth weight is reduced but there is still a significant increase over time and social differentials are undiminished.

Conclusions: There are social inequalities in low birth weight in England and Wales that have not narrowed over an eight year period, 1993–2000. These inequalities are likely to affect childhood and adult health inequalities in the future, hence strategies will need to address differences in low birth weight and further monitoring of trends is therefore desirable.

  • birth weight
  • inequalities
  • social class
  • time trends

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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

  • Crown copyright 2003. Published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.