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There were 1,031 infant deaths in Australia in 2012 and just over half (55%) were among males. The rate of infant deaths in 2012 was 338 deaths per 100,000 population aged less than 1 (or about 1 death for every 296 infants). The rate of infant deaths decreased by more than one-third (36%) since 1997; from a rate of 529 deaths per 100,000 (Figure 4.1).

55% of infant deaths in 2012 were considered potentially avoidable, for example those due to complications in the perinatal period.

Figure 4.1: Death rates among infants (aged less than 1), by sex, 1997–2012

Premature mortality ages <1: death rate trends PNG

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S1, 524KB XLS).

Three-quarters (75%) of infant deaths in 2010–2012 were due to certain conditions originating in the perinatal period and congenital conditions (Table 4.1). These include, for example, conditions related to short gestation and low birth weight, birth trauma and viral diseases acquired in utero.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the second most common cause of death among infants, accounting for 6.7% of deaths in 2010–2012. Infant deaths due to SIDS have more than halved since 1997–1999, from 58 deaths per 100,000 to 25 deaths per 100,000 in 2010–2012.

Table 4.1: Leading causes of death among infants (aged less than 1), 2010–2012
Rank Cause of death Deaths Per cent
1 Perinatal & congenital (other) 2,565 Premature mortality ages <1: perinatal & congenital PNG 
2 SIDS (other) 227 Premature mortality ages <1: SIDS PNG
3 Ill-defined causes (other) 144 Premature mortality ages <1: ill-definted causes PNG
4 Accidental threats to breathing (injury) 39 Premature mortality ages <1: accidental threats to breathing PNG
5 Selected metabolic disorders (other) 35 Premature mortality ages <1: selected metabolic disorders PNG


  1. Colours indicate broad cause of death category.
    blue = chronic disease, orange = cancer, purple = injury & poisoning, green = other cause of death.
  2. Injury and poisoning death data should be interpreted with caution due to the potential for revision (see Source data).

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database (Table S2, 524KB XLS).