Sunday, November 19, 2006

Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality

So I woke up this morning thinking about life expectancy and infant mortality because, well, I'm a dork and that's the sort of stuff I think about first thing in the morning. Actually, I'm currently in the middle of reorganizing my office/library/guestroom and trying to recall a little factoid I read a while ago. I found it on page 139 of How We Know What Isn't So.

Many people are surprised to learn that relatively little of the
improvement in health and longevity during the last two hundred years is due to
drug and surgical treatment of sick individuals. Most of the gain is
attributable to various preventive measures such as improved sewage disposal,
water purification, the pasteurization of milk, and improved diets. In
fact, our greater longevity is mainly due to our increased chances of surviving
childhood, chances increased by these very preventive measures and by the
introduction of vaccines for the infectious diseases of youth. The life
expectancy of those who make it to adulthood has not changed much during the
last hundred years. The life expectancy of a 45-year-old man in the
nineteenth century was roughly 70 years, a figure not much different from that
of today.

I would have never independently come up with decreased infant mortality as the primary driver for increased life expectancy, but after hearing the postulate, it's impossible to forget. This factoid is one of the most counter-intuitive and surprising things I've read in a long time. If any of you have a similar interesting factoid, please share it with me!

how did you hear about the book How We Know What Isn't So? whoever told you about the book (and got it for you) is obvously a god guy and a great friend :)
Also, when dead babies start piling up in the trash, morale goes down.
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