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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 19, 2001


JAMA. 2001;286(23):2918. doi:10.1001/jama.286.23.2918-JJY10043-2-1

It is said, on the authority of the registrar-general for Ireland, that 20 per cent. of the population of that island die of old age, and it would appear that that is not very rapidly fatal as there were living there in 1900, 212 men and women over 100 years of age. If these are facts it may be a question whether in some points of view they are so much a matter for unmixed satisfaction as might at first appear. Considering life as a blessing in itself, and most normal individuals hold this opinion practically if not theoretically, the showing is eminently satisfactory. Nevertheless a high percentage of deaths from old age must necessarily imply a much larger proportion than one-fifth living past the period of active usefulness, and this by so much lessens proportionately the active and productive part of the population. Taking account of the emigration, of the drafts on the young man for military service, which has always been favored by the Irish, and of this special vitality and longevity, it would seem that Ireland must be a country of old people par excellence. The longevity also indicates that life must be taken easy over there; nothing shortens it more than worry. Possibly the strenuous living Hibernians have come to this country where they can work off their energies in generally getting on in the world. Another corroborative fact as to the general well-being of the Irish and the comparatively small proportion of young and productive individuals is the reduced birth rate, which is a usual accompaniment of thrift and prosperity, and which is said to be lower than in any other portion of the British Isles. Taking all the data together and estimating their significance, it would seem that we ought not to consider Ireland a bad country to live in, but must infer that possibly the green island averages fairly well among the other parts of the earth.