LIMERICK and the Mid-West have the highest rates of mortality among infants and adults in the entire country, new figures from the CSO have revealed.
Vital Statistics, a CSO analysis of births and deaths in 2009, shows that Limerick city had the highest standardised death rate in the country at 7.78 deaths per 1,000 people compared to the 5.03 in South Dublin.
While poverty and lifestyle choices in disadvantaged areas of the city may be partly behind the statistics, the high mortality rates in the Mid-West are far from an urban phenomenon and sources who spoke to the Leader questioned whether access to and quality of health care in the region are also playing a part.
Standardised death rates take account of the age profile of a subject population in any given area and the 2009 report shows that - at 7.61 deaths per 1,000 people - North Tipperary had the second highest rate in the country. County Limerick (6.94) was also above the national average while Clare (6.28) was marginally below.
As a region, the Mid-West had the highest standardised rate in the country in that year.
And the report has also found that the Mid-West has the worst infant mortality rates in the country. While Ireland compares well with other European countries in terms of the deaths of children in the first 12 months - the country outperforms the UK, Germany and the Netherlands – the CSO shows widespread regional variation.
Infant mortality in the Mid-West as a whole – at 5.1 deaths per 1,000 – is again the highest in the country, where the national average is 3.3.
The 2009 report is the third consecutive CSO analysis showing the region to have the highest infant mortality rate in the country.
Clare (5.3 deaths per 1,000 infants), County Limerick (5.2), North Tipperary (4.8) and Limerick City (4.6) all recorded infant mortality rates higher than the national average.
Figures on perinatal mortality (including stillbirths, late-term and early neonatal deaths) also make for sobering reading in the Mid-West. Only three areas in the country have rates exceeding 10 deaths per 1,000 - Limerick City, North Tipperary and Cavan.
Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan described the mortality rates as “a cause for concern and something which we must try and identify the causes of”.
A full version of this story was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated June 8, 2012.