Health Resources in the United States: Personnel, Facilities, and Services

By George W. Bachman | Go to book overview

Chapter I
HEALTH PROGRESS SINCE 1900

In the past fifty years there has been dramatic progress in the health of the nation. This is usually measured by the decline in mortality rates and the increase in life expectancy. In 1900 the total death rate in the United States was 17.2 per 1,000 population; for 1950 the rate was 9.6 per 1,000.

With the drop in death rates, life expectancy has increased. Since the beginning of the century the average length of life in the United States has increased from 49.2 years to 67.2 years in 1948.1 It has been estimated that "According to the mortality record of 1900-02, only 75 per cent of the babies traced from birth would have attained age 24; with the mortality record of 1948, this age will be reached by 94 per cent of the babies. Fifty per cent of the babies of 1900-02 would have reached age 58 if health conditions of that time had continued; 77½ per cent will attain this age under recent mortality conditions."2

The decline in death rates since 1900 has been most marked for children and young adults. The decline was over two thirds at 10 years of age. It was nearly half at 40 years of age, and only a little more than a quarter at 50 years of age. What this means in terms of survival is shown by the fact that 87.6 per cent of those born in 1901 could be expected to survive the first year, and only 65.9 per cent could be expected to reach 40 years. By 1940, 95.3 per cent could be expected to survive the first year, and 86.7 per cent could be expected to reach age 40. The detailed figures are given in the table on page 10.

The actual death rate of children under one year of age declined from 162.4 per 1,000 live births in 19003 to 31.3 in 1949.4 Adjusted figure for 1949. The drop in the total death rate is the sum of the increases and decreases of the death toll from specific diseases. The shifts in the crude death

____________________
1
Mortimer Spiegelman, "Health Progress in the United States", A Survey of Recent Trends in Longevity, November 1950, p. 5.
2
The same, pp. 20-21.
3
U. S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1950, Table 77, p. 71.
4
U. S. Public Health Service, "Annual Summary for 1949: United States, by State," Monthly vital Statistics Bulletin, Vol. 12, Mar. 31, 1950, p. 1.

-9-

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