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Quantifying the impact of rising food prices on child mortality in India: a cross-district statistical analysis of the District Level Household Survey

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>04/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number2
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)554-564
Publication statusPublished
Early online date10/04/16
Original languageEnglish


BACKGROUND: Rates of child malnutrition and mortality in India remain high. We tested the hypothesis that rising food prices are contributing to India's slow progress in improving childhood survival.

METHODS: Using rounds 2 and 3 (2002-08) of the Indian District Level Household Survey, we calculated neonatal, infant and under-five mortality rates in 364 districts, and merged these with district-level food price data from the National Sample Survey Office. Multivariate models were estimated, stratified into 27 less deprived states and territories and 8 deprived states ('Empowered Action Groups').

RESULTS: Between 2002 and 2008, the real price of food in India rose by 11.7%. A 1% increase in total food prices was associated with a 0.49% increase in neonatal (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.13% to 0.85%), but not infant or under-five mortality rates. Disaggregating by type of food and level of deprivation, in the eight deprived states, we found an elevation in neonatal mortality rates of 0.33% for each 1% increase in the price of meat (95% CI: 0.06% to 0.60%) and 0.10% for a 1% increase in dairy (95% CI: 0.01% to 0.20%). We also detected an adverse association of the price of dairy with infant (b = 0.09%; 95% CI: 0.01% to 0.16%) and under-five mortality rates (b = 0.10%; 95% CI: 0.03% to 0.17%). These associations were not detected in less deprived states and territories.

CONCLUSIONS: Rising food prices, particularly of high-protein meat and dairy products, were associated with worse child mortality outcomes. These adverse associations were concentrated in the most deprived states.