Study Links Alcohol Consumption to SIDS

Though Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has long been perceived as the death of a child without any explainable cause of health, a study led by sociology professor David Phillips points to the caretakers’ alcohol consumption as a possible cause.

The cause of SIDS is officially unknown, though it has been linked to teen mothers, mothers who use drugs, premature babies, no prenatal care and situations of poverty. SIDS rates have dropped dramatically since 1992 — when parents were told to put babies to sleep on their backs or sides to reduce the likelihood of SIDS — but remain as a significant cause of death among infants under one year old.

Phillips, along with a group of 200 undergraduate students, analyzed cause of death data from the death certificates of children from 1973 to 2006. They compared this information with the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The FARS provides information on all U.S. motor vehicle accidents, and the information on alcohol-related accidents helped the researchers to discover when alcohol consumption spiked most dramatically. They found that the most dangerous time was from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and weekends and holidays.

By comparing this information to the death certificates, the team found the largest spike in the reported number of SIDS deaths — 33 percent — occurred during the same times as high alcohol consumption.

Phillips said that the alcohol consumption of an infant’s caretakers affects her home life. For example, during times when a caretaker is drunk, he or she is less likely to place the infant in a safe position or monitor him/her sufficiently.

Phillips said he hopes his findings — the first large-scale study to test the correlation between SIDS and alcohol — will raise awareness on the importance of responsible caretakers. He said he believes more information about the disease should be given to everyone that will be taking care of an infant.

He said that still there is much more research to be done on SIDS, including looking at the police records, finding correlations between the income of fathers and the number of cases or the conditions of the dead.

Phillips’s paper on SIDS will be published in the science journal Addiction.