Frazer Blog

How We Died 100 Years Ago Vs. How We Die Today

by | Sep 8, 2017 | For Families

An outstretched hand holding flowers in black and white

A lot has changed in the past 100 years. Our technology, our funeral traditions, and — as it turns out – even the way we die. Life 100 years ago was a lot more dangerous.

A recent study analyzed the causes of death in America as reported by the Center for Disease Control from 1900-1904 and compared them to the top causes of death in 2014. Here’s what life (and death) used to look like way back when.

Common Causes of Death in 1901

The average life expectancy for a man back in 1901 was around 47 years. For a woman, it was about 50 years. When it comes to causes of death, the top 5 reasons listed were:

  • Enteritis and Gastrointestinal infections (58,905)
  • Tuberculosis (55,370)
  • Pneumonia (48,019)
  • Heart Disease (36,130)
  • Bright’s Disease (25,719)

Accidents also were prevalent. According to the study, the top accident-related deaths were:

  • Heat and sunstroke
  • Railroad accidents
  • Drowning
  • Burns and scalds
  • Fractures and dislocations
  • Accidental poisonings
  • Accidental gunshot wounds

Another study from The New England Journal of Medicine lists the flu, cerebrovascular disease (strokes), and cancer as other common causes. The lack of medicine and medical knowledge meant that you were more likely to die from things like the flu, infections, and pneumonia than you would have of something like cancer. An interesting find from the study is that death from both cancer and heart disease only made up 18% of all deaths in 1901. Today they account for 63% of deaths. Let’s look at other common causes of death in the modern day.

Common Causes of Death Today

Life expectancy today (although it has fallen recently) is a lot better than it was in 1901. Today the average life expectancy for an American man is about 76 years, and for an American woman, it’s about 81 years. The most common causes of death today are:

  • Heart Disease (614,348)
  • Cancer (591,699)
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases (147,101)
  • Accidents (136,053)
  • Stroke (133,1013)

People back in 1901, due to lack of understanding and lack of medicine, had little control over how they died. Today, with our better understanding of disease, we can prevent many of the top causes of death.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that a lot of illnesses can be avoided. For example, roughly a third of heart disease is preventable through lifestyle changes. And a fifth of all cancers (such as lung, cervical, skin, breast, prostate, and others) also can sometimes be prevented through regular screenings and lifestyle changes. The Cleveland Clinic also pointed out that by not smoking you can avoid potential chronic lower respiratory diseases.

A lot has changed in the past 100 years. And you can’t help but wonder what death might look like 100 years from now (download our free eBook, Future Funeral Trends, to find out!).

What would your odds look like 100 years ago? Find out below. (Courtesy of LCB)


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