Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)

This section presents data and statistics on sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). You can download factsheets from the Downloads box.

Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of SUDI in young children [1].  In particular, evidence shows an increased risk of SUDI for infants whose mother smokes [2].

In 2016 there were 42 deaths from SUDI

In 2016, 42 children under one year of age (<1 year) died from SUDI in New Zealand.  This is a rate of 0.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. 

Since 2000, the number (and rate) of SUDI deaths has decreased (Figure 1). SUDI accounts for roughly 18% of all infant deaths during this period.

Figure 1: Number of SUDI deaths, 2000–2016

SUDI rates are higher among Māori and Pacific babies, and in more deprived areas

In 2012–16, SUDI rates were far higher for Māori (1.3 deaths per 1,000 live births) and Pacific babies (1.2 deaths per 1,000 births) than babies in other ethnic groups (Figure 2).

Figure 2: SUDI deaths per 1,000 live births, by prioritised ethnic group, 2012–16

Babies living in the most deprived areas had a much higher SUDI rate (1.3 deaths per 1,000 live births) than those in the least deprived areas (Figure 3).

Figure 3: SUDI deaths per 1000 live births, by NZDep2013 quintiles, 2012–16

Tairāwhiti and Whanganui DHBs had the highest SUDI rates in 2012–16

In 2012–16, the District Health Boards (DHBs) with the highest SUDI rates were Tairāwhiti and Whanganui DHBs. 

See the factsheet for more details (in the Downloads box).

Information about this data 

Sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI)

Source: Fetal and Infant Deaths 2016 [3]

Definition: Deaths in children aged under one year of age (<1 year old) with an underlying cause of death in the following ICD-10AM codes: R95, R96, R98, R99, W75, W78, W79. Rates are presented per 1000 live births.

For more information, see the metadata sheet. 


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2007. Children and Secondhand Smoke Exposure. Excerpts from The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coordinating Center for Health Promotion, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. 

2. Anderson HR, & Cook, D. 1997. Passive smoking and sudden infant death syndrome: review of the epidemiological evidence. Thorax, 52, 1003-1009.

3. Ministry of Health. 2019. Fetal and Infant Deaths 2016. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 

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