1. Key messages
- In 2020, the infant mortality rate decreased to 3.2 per thousand live births.
- Since 1998, infant mortality rates have decreased by 40%.
- Infant mortality rates in 2020 were considerably higher in the Brussels Capital Region (4.5‰) compared with the Flemish Region (3.2‰) and the Walloon Region (2.7‰).
2. Infant mortality rate
395 deaths of infants observed in Belgium in 2020
In the year 2020, Belgian authorities registered a total of 395 infant deaths.
Among those, 368 deaths occurred in infants born from a mother who is registered in the National Registry. There were no infant deaths registered in the Asylum Seeker Register in 2020. For 27 deaths (6.8%), the mother was not officially registered in Belgium or the infant death was only notified via a death certificate.
In the same year, the total number of live births was equal to 116 543, of which 113 739 (97.6%) were registered in the National Registry, 611 (0.5%) were registered in the Asylum Seeker Register, and for 2193 (1.8%) births the mother was not officially registered in Belgium or the birth was only notified with a birth certificate.
|Number of deaths||Number of live births||Infant mortality rate (/1000)|
|National Registry and Asylum Seeker Register||368||114,350||3.22|
Decrease in the male infant mortality rate in 2020
In 2020, the infant mortality rate was 3.2 per thousand live births. Infant mortality rates have decreased by 40% from 1998 (5.3‰) to 2020.
The infant mortality rate in 2020 was 3.1 per thousand live births in girls and 3.4 per thousand live births in boys, corresponding to an absolute gap of 0.3‰ and a sex ratio of 1.1. The fluctuations in these gender mortality gaps over time can be largely explained by the small number of infant deaths. In 2020, the gender difference was minimal due to the important decrease in the male infant mortality rate.
After smoothing, the mortality differences between girls and boys persisted (respectively 3.0‰ and 3.9‰).
Crude infant mortality rate (‰) by sex, 1998-2020
Source: Statbel 
Smoothed infant mortality rate (‰) (5-year moving average) by sex, 2002-2020
Source: Own calculation based on Statbel 
In 2020, there are differences in the regional infant mortality rates
Stark regional differences were observed in infant mortality rates in 2020: the infant mortality rates were highest in the Brussels Capital Region (4.5‰) followed by the Flemish Region (3.2‰) and the Walloon Region (2.7‰). After smoothing, the 2020 infant mortality rates were still higher in the Brussels Capital Region (3.7‰) compared to the Flemish Region (3.5‰) and the Walloon Region (3.3‰).
Over time, a strong decline has been observed in all regions. However, despite a strong decline in the past, the infant mortality rate in the Brussels Capital Region is rising again. In general, over the last eight years, the infant mortality rate has been stagnating.
Crude infant mortality rate (‰) by region, 1998-2020
Source: Statbel 
Smoothed infant mortality rate (‰) (5-year moving average) by region, 2002-2020
Source: Own calculation based on Statbel 
Infant mortality in Belgium is higher than the EU-14 average
In 2020, the Belgian infant mortality was higher than the EU-14 average (3.0). Belgium had the 4th highest infant mortality rate in 2020 among the EU-14, after its neighboring countries (Luxembourg, Netherlands, and France).
Source: OECD Health Data 
3. Read more
View the metadata for this indicator
SPMA: Standardized Procedures for Mortality Analysis in Belgium
The infant mortality rate reflects the mortality of children below 1 year. It includes both the consequences of perinatal events and the mortality occurring after the perinatal period, which is often preventable. The infant mortality rate is highly correlated to the country's level of development, the quality of medical care, and the availability of preventive services and health promotion interventions.
Higher infant mortality rates in boys compared to girls have for long been observed in nearly all countries in the world . The explanation is complex, including important biological and genetic factors as well as environmental and behavioral factors resulting in a persistent mortality difference throughout infancy and even later [4,5].
Large fluctuations in yearly rates are observed at regional level, due to the small number of infant deaths. Meaningful comparisons of rates and trends by region are therefore best made using smoothed rates. In this overview, we use a moving average over 5 years period.
Deaths occurring in Belgium may occur in legal residents (registered in the National Register, with a Belgian or foreign nationality), asylum seekers (registered in the register of asylum seekers), or non-residents (travelers, illegal, etc.). Official statistics on infant mortality include legal residents and asylum seekers.
On this page, we first present all infant deaths in Belgium by residence status, and then focus on the deaths of infants whose mothers were legal residents.
- The EU-14 corresponds to all countries that already belonged to the European Union between 1995 and 2004: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. We compare the Belgian health status to that of the EU-14 because these countries have similar socioeconomic conditions. Note: The United Kingdom is not included since they have left the EU.
- Infant mortality rate
- The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1000 live births in the same year.
- Sex ratio
- The sex ratio is the mortality rate of boys under the age of 1 divided by the mortality rate of girls under the age of 1. A sex ratio of 1.2 means that there are 1.2 times more infant deaths in boys than in girls.
- Statbel, 1998-2020. https://statbel.fgov.be/en/themes/population/mortality-life-expectancy-and-causes-death/feto-infant-mortality
- OECD Health Data, 2020. https://stats.oecd.org/
- UN IGME. United Nations Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation; 2018. https://childmortality.org/data
- Drevenstedt GL, Crimmins EM, Vasunilashorn S, Finch CE. The rise and fall of excess male infant mortality, 2008. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18362357/
- Sidebotham P, Fraser J, Covington T, Freemantle J, Petrou S, Pulikottil-Jacob R, et al. Understanding why children die in high-income countries, 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25209491/
Please cite this page as: Sciensano. Mortality and Causes of Death: Infant mortality, Health Status Report, 7 Apr 2023, Brussels, Belgium, https://www.healthybelgium.be/en/health-status/mortality-and-causes-of-death/infant-mortality