Mapping Health Outcomes

Child mortality

Child and infant mortality are two of the most frequently used indicators to assess health performance internationally. In this regard, Hong Kong has achieved substantial improvements over the past 30 years, as is clear from the line chart on the near right. Child mortality (death before a child’s fifth birthday, and here migration-adjusted) has decreased from 13 in 1980 to less than four deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009. Infant mortality is also at a very low level, at two deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to five in London and New York, 13 in Mexico City. Improvements have been made in all parts of the urban region with little overall spatial variation in levels of child mortality. Where they do occur, however, high child mortality rates are spatially concentrated in particular parts of the New Territories, where they are between 17 and 35 deaths per 1,000 live births, similar to the 33 deaths per 1,000 live births in Johannesburg. While rates are found to be considerably higher in peripheral locations in Hong Kong, it should be borne in mind that the number of births among Hong Kong residents in some of these areas is also extremely low, which is likely to make these statistics prone to greater annual fluctuation. The strong relationship between deprivation and child mortality is revealed by the bar chart on the far right, which indicates that locations of high child mortality are overwhelmingly likely to be those of high deprivation. In Hong Kong’s most deprived areas, child mortality rates are more than 1.5 times the city figure.

Improving life chances

Linking health and deprivation

Mortality figures are migration-adjusted, that is, records of residents living outside Hong Kong have been excluded. The figures may therefore be different from official statistics.

Premature mortality

Premature mortality refers to persons (including children) dying before the age of 75. It is often used as an estimation of health status, as well as to calculate ‘years of potential life lost’. In Hong Kong, premature mortality is extremely low by international standards, at 216 deaths per 100,000 people (but it is measured differently in different countries). This strong performance conceals a significant gender divide: the premature mortality rate is twice as high for men (305 deaths per 100,000 people) as it is for women (134 deaths per 100,000 population). While a gender gap is common throughout the world, the ratio between men and women’s premature mortality has widened in Hong Kong from around 1.5 to 2.3 since 1981.
Premature mortality also varies significantly across Hong Kong. Interestingly, there is no clear pattern visible between Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories but, as in the case of child mortality, significant differences are present at smaller scales, closely mirroring patterns of deprivation. Within Kowloon, Sham Shui Po, the northern part of Kowloon City and Whampoa display significant differences. Overall, premature mortality varies significantly from 113 deaths per 100,000 people in the poorest 20 per cent of areas to 65 deaths per 100,000 people in the wealthiest 20 per cent of areas. Pre-mature mortality is higher in high-density quintiles (45,000 people per square kilometre or more) and lower in the lowest-density quintile (up to 4,000 people per square kilometre). It is lowest of all in the density band of between 4,000 to 17,000 people per square kilometre (second quintile) – the density band that also happens to include privileged areas most often.

Mortality and deprivation

Linking health and density

Mortality figures are migration-adjusted, that is, records of residents living outside Hong Kong have been excluded. The figures may therefore be different from official statistics.

Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Planning Department.