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JAMA 100 Years Ago
July 3, 2013

Expectation of Life

JAMA. 2013;310(1):101. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5186

Originally Published July 5, 1913 | JAMA. 1913;61(1):44.

So much has been said in recent years about the saving of life by the development and enforcement of sanitary regulations, especially by the gradual but steadily progressive reduction in the death-rate from infectious diseases of all kinds, and above all those from which children suffer, that it is well to know exactly how the expectation of life has been modified during the last three or four decades while our sanitation has been undoubtedly advancing in efficiency. The opportunity for the study of comparative mortality at different periods of life and of expectation of life is afforded by the publication of a life-table by the department of health of New York City, a preliminary report of which occurs in the Weekly Bulletin of the department for May 31, 1913. A life-table, according to the dictionary, is “a statistical table showing the number of people, out of a given number, that will probably reach different ages,” and this is the first time that the New York City Department of Health has prepared such a document. It is all the more interesting because it permits a comparison with the results of a similar document prepared under the direction of the late Dr. John S. Billings in 1882 for the federal census. That table was based on the mortality statistics for the triennium 1879-1881. The present table takes the same statistics for the corresponding three years 1909-1911, inclusive, just thirty years later.