Children of South Asian ethnicity from the least deprived backgrounds are more likely to die in intensive care than other children, reveals research published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The findings are based on admissions to 29 pediatric intensive care units across England and Wales between 2004 and 2007 for children under the age of 16.
The researchers calculated admission rates according to levels of deprivation and ethnic background. They then calculated the subsequent risk of death.
During the study period, 40,303 children were admitted to pediatric intensive care units in England and Wales, giving a rate of 98 per 100,000 of the child population or 0.1%.
Just under 11% were classified as coming from a South Asian background, and half of all children admitted were under 12 months of age.
The figures showed that children of South Asian ethnicity were 36% more likely to be admitted to intensive care than children of other ethnicities, based on rates per 100,000 of the child population.
Children with a South Asian background were 36% more likely to die while receiving intensive care than children of other ethnic backgrounds.
And children with this ethnic background, who lived in areas of least deprivation, were more than twice as likely to die in intensive care as those living in areas of the greatest deprivation.
But there is no obvious explanation for the findings, say the authors.
"Although there is some evidence that class inequalities in self related health seen in the white population are not apparent in Pakistani and Bangladeshi adults, it is not clear why there is such a strong interaction between less deprived children of South Asian origin and excess mortality," they write.
National data show that overall infant mortality for England and Wales stands at 5.2 deaths for every 1000 births. But the rate is higher among communities of South Asian ethnicity.
Among babies born to mothers of Pakistani origin, for example, the rate is double the national average, at 10.5 deaths for every 1000 births.