Life expectancy research papers report that according to the World Health Organization, an American born in the United States in the year 1999 has an average life expectancy of 70.0 years, 67.5 years for males and 72.6 years for females (WHO). Two hundred years ago, life expectancy was an entirely different matter. In 1800, 20 to 25% of white children in the United States (one out of every four or five) did not survive to maturity. For African-Americans, infant mortality was one-third. The extreme end of life expectancy for those who survived infancy only reached into the mid-sixties. In two hundred years, Americans are managing to live some seven to fifteen years longer.
An Increase in Life Expectancy
One of the most obvious reasons for the increase in life expectancy is the increase in medical science. In 1800, disease was largely a mystery. It has been estimated that tuberculosis accounted for up to one-fourth of all deaths in the United States before the Civil War. Malaria was also epidemic, called “the ague,” and while it did not kill its victims outright, it often left them physically debilitated and susceptible to other causes, such as infections. Smallpox, Cholera, and yellow fever also reached epidemic proportions at various times during the 19th century, taking numerous lives.
Life Expectancy and Disease Treatment
By the dawn of the 21st century, the causes of these diseases and many others have been found, and medicines are available to treat and/or cure them. The discovery of penicillin by Fleming was a revolution in treating disease.