Learn about Life in the 1920s

Medical Science Prolonging Life - 1921 Article

THE SAVING OF LIFE, especially that of children, is beginning to show in the statistical tables.

Great Britain's population has increased 13 million in the past fifty years, yet the annual deaths are less by 50,000 than in 1871. The average life in that country is 11 1/2 years longer than it was fifty years ago. "The achievements of the past," says an editorial writer on this subject in The Nation's Health (Washington) "raise bright hopes for the future." It is estimated that by the end of the present century the average life of a Briton will be six years longer than it is now. We read:

"In the decade 1871-1880 the expectation of life in Great Britain was 41.0 years. In the decade 1911-1920 it was 51.5. In other words, the average life span has increased eleven and a half years in half a century. This increase in the average life span is due to the years saved in the younger and more productive decades and may be accounted for by the reduction of typhoid and the water-borne diseases, the elimination of typhus, and the more general improvement of the environment, particularly that of childhood. In spite of the fact that the population of Great Britain is 13,000,000 greater than it was in 1871, there are 50,000 less deaths per annum. In 1854 the death-rate was 37.2 per one thousand: in 1920 it was 12.4 per thousand.

"The increasing expectancy in the past is explained in part by the fact that in Great Britain the average number of deaths per annum from typhoid fever in the period 1871-1880 was 7,800, while in 1920 it was 537: in 1870 the scarlet fever deaths were about 30,000, in 1920 about 1,000: while in the past decade the annual number of deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis has fallen about 6,000. Among the communicable diseases, measles, whooping-cough, influenza, poliomyelitis, and cerebrospinal meningitis still require the evolution of adequate control measures. The campaign against venereal diseases is bearing fruit and will undoubtedly do much to increase the average length of life in the middle-age periods, as will also the movement for the control of cancer. Industrial medicine, mental hygiene, and the maternity and child-welfare work will cause a continuous diminution in the mortality rates, while an increase of medical knowledge will do much to decrease the death-rate from the so-called constitutional diseases.

"Thus the achievements of the past raise bright hopes for the future. The health idea is becoming the universal custom of life—a custom based on knowledge which is becoming widely diffused throughout the general public."