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Adversarial childhood events are associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): an ecological study

By Eran Elhaik

Posted 07 Jun 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/339465 (published DOI: 10.18053/jctres.04.201802.005)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the most common cause of postneonatal infant death. The allostatic load hypothesis posits that SIDS is the result of perinatal cumulative painful, stressful, or traumatic exposures that tax neonatal regulatory systems. To test it, we explored the relationships between SIDS and two common stressors, male neonatal circumcision (MNC) and prematurity, using latitudinal data from 15 countries and over 40 US states during the years 1999-2016. We used linear regression analyses and likelihood ratio tests to calculate the association between SIDS and the stressors. SIDS prevalence was significantly and positively correlated with MNC and prematurity rates. MNC explained 14.2% of the variability of SIDS's male bias in the US, reminiscent of the Jewish myth of Lilith, the killer of infant males. Combined, the stressors increased the likelihood of SIDS. Ecological analyses are useful to generate hypotheses but cannot provide strong evidence of causality. Biological plausibility is provided by a growing body of experimental and clinical evidence linking adversary preterm and early-life events with SIDS. Together with historical evidence, our findings emphasize the necessity of cohort studies that consider these environmental stressors with the aim of improving the identification of at-risk infants and reducing infant mortality.

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