The conclusions of confidential inquiries into 115 registered unexpected infant deaths over a period of nine years were reviewed. Deaths were classified based on the total information available into group A: poor prognosis (n = 7), group B: treatable disease (n = 45), group C: minor disease (n = 32), group D: no disease (n = 19), group E: probably accidental (n = 4), and group F: probably filicide (n = 8). Less than 20% of deaths corresponded to the classic definition of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who died during the course of potentially treatable disease had more adverse family and social factors: the parents were less likely to be owner occupiers, or own a car or telephone, their mothers were more likely to be young, to smoke, and to present late in pregnancy. Babies who died of minor disease tended to come from similar backgrounds, their families had greater levels of stress and the deaths appeared to be due to more than one factor. Babies who died with no terminal disease were younger, and more likely to be boys. Their families appeared to be demographically similar to those of a control group and to the general population.
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