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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/380

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376
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE INCREASING MORTALITY FROM DEGENERATIVE MALADIES
By E. E. RITTENHOUSE

CONSERVATION COMMISSIONER, THE EQUITABLE LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES

IT is quite generally believed by those who have studied American morbidity and mortality tendencies that there has been a marked increase in recent years in the death rate from chronic diseases of the important and hardest worked organs of the body. They also believe that this increase is reflected in the upward trend of the general mortality rate in middle life and old age. There are those, however, who assert—obviously without investigation or analysis of the public statistics bearing upon the subject—that neither of these increases has taken place.

And there are still others, some of them prominent in the health movement, who express the opinion—also apparently without reference to the records—that the increase is natural and to be expected. Their theory is that the increase, whatever it may be, is due to the saving of lives in the younger ages, chiefly from communicable disease; that these lives passing into the older periods—many of them with weakened power of resistance—have given us more old people to die than we formerly had.

Such an increase in the number living in the later ages would merely lead to a correspondingly increased number of deaths, and not to an increase in the death rate at these ages, which is the ratio between the number dying and the number living.

The areas where the most dependable vital statistics are to be had, show but a trifling increase in the group above age 40 in each 1,000 of the population, while the death rate in the same group shows a very marked increase.

While the mortality experts of a number of the more important life insurance companies have recognized the increasing mortality in the older ages, and in some instances increased the severity of medical examinations, and in others increased premiums at those ages, only one of the larger companies and one of the smaller ones have given especial attention to the excessive life waste in these ages in their health conservation work.

 

Mortality Statistics

Much progress has been made in recent years in popularizing our vital statistics, but still much valuable information which should be